Already with a relay gold and butterfly bronze, Australia’s versatile McKeon emphatically led all-comers, underlining her favouritism for gold.
McKeon clocked 52.13 seconds, some 0.06 seconds inside her previous personal best set six weeks ago at Australia’s selection trials, and beat the three-day-old Olympic mark, set by Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom.
“I’m pretty happy with that,” McKeon told Channel Seven after her heat.
“An Olympic record is pretty cool. But I guess I had yesterday off and this morning off, so I think it freshened me up a bit.”
Meanwhile McKeon, alongside two-time gold medallist Ariarne Titmus, will join the women’s 4x200m freestyle, after both were spared a swim in Wednesday’s heat.
The women’s relayers – Mollie O’Callaghan, Meg Harris, Briana Throssell and Tamsin Cook – easily won their heat and were the fastest qualifiers for the final.
The Australians clocked seven minutes 44.61 seconds, some three seconds ahead of the United States, without the star power of Titmus and McKeon.
Australia’s opening ceremony joint flagbearer Cate Campbell was fourth-fastest into Thursday’s semi-finals in 52.80.
Titmus won her second gold medal of the Tokyo Games in the 200m freestyle earlier on Wednesday.
Also in the pool, Kyle Chalmers is seeking a slice of Australian Olympic history when he defends his 100m freestyle title in Tokyo.
Chalmers was the sixth-fastest qualifier for Thursday’s final as he aims to extend Australia’s buoyant mood.
He has the chance to become the first Australian to win two Olympic gold medals in the men’s event.
Australia begins Thursday’s competition in the fifth spot on the medal table with six gold, one silver and nine bronze.
Chalmers is the only Australian defending an individual title in Tokyo and emerged from his semi-final with confidence.
“I’ve always delivered at the end of the competition,” he said.
Chalmers’ teammate Zac Stubblety-Cook (200m breaststroke) and the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay combination also carries gold medal hopes into Thursday.
Ash Barty and John Peers are the last Australian hopes in tennis, with the mixed doubles pair to face Maria Sakkari and Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the quarter-finals.
On Wednesday night, The Boomers passed a tricky Italian test with an 86-83 men’s basketball win setting them up to top their Tokyo Olympic pool.
In their first Olympic appearance since winning silver in Athens 2004, Italy pushed the Australians to uncomfortable places.
But Brian Goorjian’s team was up to it, crucially out-rebounding Italy 44-30 and only breathing easy when a Joe Ingles three put them seven points clear inside the final three minutes.
Italy did get back within three points, before a clutch floater off the glass from Patty Mills and two free throws from Matisse Thybulle iced the win.
Elsewhere in the competition, trap shooters Laetisha Scanlan and Penny Smith are well-placed to qualify for their final.
Scanlan is fifth and Smith holds sixth place for the next two qualifying rounds, with the top six through to the final later on Thursday.
The women’s rugby sevens team start their Olympic gold medal defence on Thursday, with games against the host nation and China.
K1 canoe bronze medallist Jessica Fox has qualified fifth-fastest in the new women’s event the C1 ahead of Thursday’s semi-finals and medal races, while Lucian Delfour is third going into the business end of the men’s K1.
The unbeaten Hockeyroos can strengthen their hold of the top spot in Group B when they play second-placed New Zealand in women’s hockey.
Rohan Dennis collected a bronze medal in his signature event in the individual time-trial in cycling on Wednesday.
Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith tee off in the opening round of men’s golf and the Sharks play Serbia in men’s water polo.
Saya Sakakibara will lack nothing for inspiration when she rides in the opening rounds of BMX racing.
Her brother Kai was on the way to qualifying for Tokyo in the same sport when he crashed heavily in a race and was put into a coma with traumatic head injuries.
Kai is in Tokyo to support his sister and his remarkable recovery has progressed to him being able to ride a bike again.
Anthony Dean and Lauren Reynolds will also compete in BMX racing.
– with AAP
This article was first published in the New Daily. Read the full article here
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