Family comes first for Australian swimming’s champion siblings David and Emma McKeon – even after their father asked them to leave home.
So it only seemed fitting that the McKeons were the first to earn selection for Australia’s Glasgow Commonwealth Games team at the national titles in Brisbane on Tuesday night.
David McKeon, 21, became the first picked for Glasgow when he claimed a third straight 400m freestyle national title by winning in three minutes, 43.72 seconds – the world’s fastest time of 2014.
Minutes later 19-year-old younger sister Emma (1:55.68) was also Glasgow-bound after clocking an Australian record to hold out Olympic bronze medallist Bronte Barratt (1:56.61) in the women’s 200m freestyle final.
Then again, swimming has always been a family affair for the McKeons.
Their father and ex-coach Ron – a dual Olympian – and mum Susie (nee Woodhouse) both represented Australia in the Commonwealth Games pool.
Now their kids are primed for a Glasgow Games assault – but only after some tough love.
Ron McKeon had been in his son’s ear for years to move out of the Wollongong family home.
But he put the foot down after world No.2-ranked David McKeon bombed out at the 2013 world titles, failing to make the final.
Convinced the pair would blossom under a different coach away from home, Ron insisted and Emma McKeon relocated to Brisbane under Vince Raleigh in January – and David followed.
“Dad wanted me to move out two years ago but I wasn’t really ready,” said David McKeon.
“But when Emma decided to go I went with her. I train well with her.
“The hardest thing is coming home and cooking dinner. We never get takeaway and there is a Pizza Hut right across the road.”
Ron McKeon – now the national open water coach – said he had been left with a “warm and fuzzy feeling” knowing their kids had followed in their footsteps to the Commonwealth Games.
“It was always going to be hard for them to do what they did, being away from mum and dad for the first time,” he said.
“It’s part of being uncomfortable but that can be good for them to grow, learn and get on with it.”
David McKeon’s winning 400m time – just outside his PB of 3:43.71 – would have earned 2013 world titles silver.
Only two Australians have ever swum faster over 400m – Ian Thorpe (3:40.08) and Grant Hackett (3:42.51).
“It’s cool to be able to emulate my parents,” David McKeon said.
“My mum swam here in 1982 at the Commonwealth Games and dad’s six Commonwealth gold medals hanging on the wall at home inspired me to take up swimming.
Emma McKeon’s time was the year’s second fastest in the 200m and would have earned bronze at the 2013 world titles.
David McKeon held out 17-year-old Mack Horton (3:44.60) who set a new 400m junior world record.
Meanwhile, world 100m breaststroke champion Christian Sprenger also booked a flight to Scotland with 200m gold in 2:08.63 – the year’s fastest time of 2014 and fast enough to earn him bronze at the 2013 world titles.
But despite now being the No.1 ranked Commonwealth 400m swimmer, Sprenger was not convinced he would compete in the event at Glasgow with the 100m still his focus.
And defending champion Keryn McMaster (4:39.69) held out former British Olympian Ellen Gandy (4:41.11) in the women’s 400m individual medley final.