Emma McKeon has made an immediate splash at the International Swimming League (ISL), winning the 50m freestyle in her first match for London Roar in her return to the pool following a dominant Olympic campaign.
McKeon became Australia’s most successful Olympian after winning seven medals — including four gold — in Tokyo but cut short her break with family and friends in Australia to return to competition in the ISL.
She made a swift impact on the opening day of the Roar’s match against the Cali Condors, Tokyo Frog Kings and Rome-based Aqua Centurions, winning the 50m freestyle — one of her golden events at the Olympics — and finishing a close second in the 100m butterfly before helping London to third place in the medley relay.
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McKeon will compete in the 100m freestyle — the other event in which she won individual gold in Tokyo — on day two of the Italian meet early Monday morning Australian time.
McKeon cut short her break with family and friends in Australia to return to racing at the ISL but is putting little pressure on herself, out to enjoy the shortcourse format and re-engage with friends she saw little of at the Olympics due to the threat of Covid and a huge racing program.
“It’s definitely a different way to race so I feel like that will be a nice mental break,” McKeon said of the ISL match-race format.
“I think it’ll be a lot of fun with that team and just different format, different way of racing.
“I didn’t really stop and chat to many people at all (in Tokyo), we were just so careful about what we were doing.
“Each (ISL) team has people from different countries, so we’ll be able to socialise a bit more.”
Kyle Chalmers also hit the pool for the first time since Tokyo, the London captain leading the Roar to a win in the 4x100m freestyle relay with a scintillating lead-off leg.
The effort sets up a mouth-watering rematch in the individual 100m freestyle against Olympic champion Caeleb Dressel on day two of competition.
Dressel won the 100m butterfly and was second in the 200m individual medley on the opening day but the Cali Condors captain could not make up the lead Chalmers had established for the Roar in the relay.
Queensland’s Minna Atherton also claimed gold for the Roar in the 200m backstroke to give the team a lead heading into the second day of competition.
Other Aussies to have leapt straight back into competition in the ISL include Madi Wilson, who won the 100m freestyle for LA Current in their match against the DC Current, Toronto Titans and Hungary’s Team Iron in their match on Friday and Saturday.