Commonwealth Games 200-metres breaststroke gold medallist Taylor McKeown reveals her animal instincts. By Richard Cooke.


Keeping up with the Jones: Taylor McKeown, swimmer, 20

Breaststroke is physically harder than people realise. I’ve raced 200 freestyles and 100 butterflies, and 400 freestyles, and I would say I definitely prefer to do a 200 freestyle over a 200 breaststroke. You’re trying to bring your knees up into a breaststroke while you’re also trying to go forward at the same time, so your body’s kind of working against the force and against the direction it wants to go. 

Leisel Jones is a hard act to follow. I only had one opportunity to race Leisel in my life, and that was at the 2012 London Olympic trials. I was inspired just to be in the race with her. Now that I have the opportunity to step up and possibly take her position… it’s just a really awesome feeling. She is someone who I’ve always looked up to. When I was, like, 10 years old I was thinking, “I want to be like Leisel, I want to be as quick as her.” Now that I am there, it’s pretty humbling.

She interviewed me after the Commonwealth Games. She was still very professional. She asked me what it was like, and was as excited for me as I was excited for myself. I can’t go into detail about what we talked about because I actually can’t remember, but I remember her being very accepting and very welcoming and supportive.

I have a close relationship with animals. I’m studying a bachelor of science, majoring in wildlife biology, so I’m setting myself up to work with animals once my swimming career’s finished. I’ve always grown up having lots of pets, and my mum is an animal advocate. Mum’s always telling me things like,“If you see an animal injured on the side of the road, stop to make sure it’s okay.” Right now I’ve got two little boy cats, Benji and Marshall. I’ve also got a parrot and a fish.

That’s where my nickname “` Irwin” came from. It’s a bit weird. But, yeah, I don’t mind being called that.

In a final, you’re only going to have eight swimmers that you have to worry about. Some other people might worry about who they’re swimming against, but it doesn’t really faze me who I’m up against.
I always love the opportunity to race and do my best, and any time I race, I’m racing myself and I’m racing the clock, not racing my competitors. I think of myself as being the only one in the pool. That way I feel like there is less pressure involved. 

That’s when I’ve noticed I’ve performed at my best. I go into every race with the same mentality, just thinking that I’ve got to draw the curtains up on either side of the lane.

I know I’m going to have a good race when I’m behind the blocks and I don’t feel nervous. I feel like I’m happy to be there enjoying the night. 

On social media, I try to give people an insight into my daily life. Just to let people know that I’m still human – I still have a family and I still have a life. I like using it as a way to educate people on the things I care about. There’s a campaign that goes on in Japan every year in the dolphin-hunting season and I try and post as much as I can about that when it’s going on.

There’s probably only two or three times in a year that swimmers get to let their hair down – go out on a Friday or Saturday night. It’s always after our competitions, and then directly after that we’re back into strict training. We don’t take it for granted; we actually really put in an effort to enjoy our night.

Sometimes I feel like I’m missing out. There’s been a few times where my friends have had an 18th birthday or a 21st birthday, and I really want to go, but unfortunately I’ll be competing. But I don’t let it get me down, I just know that I have a job to do while I’m away. I’d rather be competing than at a party. Swimming’s more rewarding, so I prefer to do that.

1 . This week’s highlights…

• AFL: Greater Western Sydney v Hawthorn

Saturday, 4.35pm, Spotless Stadium, Sydney

• Soccer: A-League semi-final – Sydney FC v Adelaide United

Saturday, 7.30pm, Allianz Stadium, Sydney

• Netball: Queensland Firebirds v Melbourne Vixens

Sunday, 12.18pm, Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre

• Formula One: Spanish Grand Prix

Sunday, 10pm (AEST), Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona

• NRL: South Sydney Rabbitohs v St George Illawarra Dragons 

Monday, 7pm, ANZ Stadium, Sydney

• Swimming: Canberra Grand Prix – Australia v Japan

Friday, 10am and 5pm, AIS Aquatic Centre, Canberra

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 9, 2015 as "Keeping up with the Jones".

During the final week of the election campaign we are unlocking all of our journalism. A free press is one you pay for. Now is the time to subscribe.

Richard Cooke is a contributing editor to The Monthly, and the 2018 Mumbrella Publish Award Columnist of the Year.

Sharing credit ×

Share this article, without restrictions.

You’ve shared all of your credits for this month. They will refresh on June 1. If you would like to share more, you can buy a gift subscription for a friend.