All rise as Olympic sprint queen Emma McKeon prepares to dive back into the race

During a blissful three-month stretch towards the end of 2021, after an unforgettable Olympics and a running stint in Europe, Emma McKeon did a lot of not much at all.

It was an essential intermission. McKeon shot to world fame with seven medals in the Tokyo pool, including four gold, in a week of racing that completed a whirlwind transformation from ultra-constant international campaigner to one of Australia’s Olympic greats.

There was a lot to digest and McKeon felt she had earned the right to spend time looking back, which elite athletes rarely think is a good idea. Without family or fans to witness her exploits in person, she needed time to drink it all in with her family and friends.

Still, the best keep planning their next week and then the week after, so McKeon has made his plans to take the first steps towards Paris in 2024. It starts with the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, from July 28.

The 28-year-old opted out of the world championships in Hungary. She wants to be at her peak every time she steps into the competition pool, so the weather didn’t seem right for her. In England, she will make up for lost time, in every way.

“I don’t like running unless I’m at the top of my game,” McKeon said. “Hopefully I can go to Comm Games and be at my best. For me, the big goal is Paris. I know I can keep going faster and improving, that’s what motivates me every day.

Emma McKeon with her incredible medal haul at the Tokyo Olympics.Credit:Getty

The swimming world is spinning fast. At the world championships, with the Olympics still in the rearview mirror, new faces emerged to establish themselves as forces in the sport. Teenagers like Romanian sprint freestyle sensation David Popovici and Summer McIntosh, who will meet Ariarne Titmus in the 400m freestyle in Birmingham, are now major players in a host of events.

But even the new wave, including new Australian 100m freestyle world champion Mollie O’Callaghan, cannot forget what McKeon achieved in Tokyo. She remains the undisputed queen of freestyle sprints and feels like her Olympic stint was just the start of her run to the top, not just the culmination of years of hard work.