Olympics-McKeown stakes another claim as the backstroker to beat in Tokyo

ADELAIDE, Australia, June 17 (Reuters) - Despite a week of ever faster times and broken records at the South Australia Aquatic Centre, the final night of the swimming trials to see who would make Australia’s Olympic team proved a near epic occasion.

Teenager Kaylee McKeown was less than one second from clinching her second world record in five days after tearing apart the 200 metres women’s backstroke field at the Australian swimming trials in Adelaide. McKeown, 19, clocked 2:04.28, the fastest time anywhere this year.

McKeown, 19, admitted she was starting to feel the new levels of public expectation upon her.

“I think its all starting to get to me, I had the shakes before my race, I don’t usually get that,” she said.

“I am still chasing down (world number one) Regan (Smith) and a lot of guys are no doubt chasing down me.”

Veteran Emily Seebohm, 29, who had already qualified in the 100m backstroke, took second place for what will be her fourth Games.

Despite McKeown’s brilliance this week, it is arguably 20-year-old Ariarne Titmus who has been the face of these trials in Adelaide.

Having already booked a spot in the 200m and 400m freestyle in Tokyo, she added to her potential medal spoils by qualifying in an Australian record of 8:15.57 for the 800m freestyle too. Kiah Melverton will also represent Australia after finishing second.

The women’s 50m freestyle has been the Cate and Bronte Campbell show for the best part of a decade in Australia.

Yet no more as Emma McKeon, 27, stormed through to win in 23.93 seconds, 0.01 seconds ahead of Cate Campbell in second in a race that with 20 metres to go looked like it might eclipse Sarah Sjostrom’s world record of 23.67 seconds.

McKeon’s huge success this week means she may have up to eight races in Tokyo.

Matthew Temple, in a new Australian record, and David Morgan qualified for the men’s 100m butterfly while former pop star and actor Cody Simpson, who only returned to the sport a year ago, finished last in the final.

The men’s 50m splash and dash proved the toughest of races as Cameron McEvoy finished first in 22.07 seconds, a time that fell cruelly just outside the 21.77 seconds Olympic qualifying time set down by Swimming Australia.

The last final of the night saw Jack McLoughlin who has already booked his ticket to Tokyo in the 800m freestyle, also qualify for the 1500m freestyle while second-placed 17-year-old Samuel Short missed out by just 2.16 seconds. (Editing by Toby Davis)