Brother and sister David and Emma McKeon didn’t have to look far for support and inspiration to achieve their Olympic dreams. And if the swimming Campbell sisters — Cate and Bronte — need extra motivation during training sessions or races, they think of another member of their family — a disabled brother.
The Brisbane-based McKeons and Campbells are two of seven sibling combinations already named on the Australian Olympic team to compete at the Rio de Janeiro Games in August, and there are at least two more sets expected to be included soon as the delegation grows to about 400 athletes.
The McKeons provide the best illustration of keeping it in the family. Their father, Ron, was a swimmer at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics and will be Australia’s open water coach in Rio. Their uncle, Rob Woodhouse, won a bronze medal in the individual medley in Los Angeles in 1984 and also competed at Seoul in 1988. David and Emma’s mother, Susie, swam at the 1982 Commonwealth Games for Australia before she and Ron were married.
“I think it’s just having grown up around all that, it inspires you to excel in the sport that maybe your parents did,” Emma McKeon said. “We grew up all around the water, and that sort of set our direction.”
Here’s a closer look at some of the family connections Rio-bound for Australia:
Sister in lane 4?
At the Australian trials in April, Cate Campbell, 24, beat her younger sister and current world champion Bronte by two-10ths of a second in the 100-metre freestyle, and they’ll likely be in the final in Brazil. Last year after one of their many back-and-forth duels, Bronte quipped: “I am the third-fastest swimmer in the world and yet I am the second-fastest swimmer in my family.”
They’ve also been known to apologise to each other after races. They’ll be teammates on Australian relays, but in the 50 and 100 freestyle races, there’ll be family pride at stake. The Malawi-born swimmers — they moved to Australia from Africa in 2001 — take inspiration from 17-year-old brother Hamish, who has cerebral palsy. “Whenever we think that our lives are getting too hard, we look over at him, and he can’t feed himself, he can’t clothe himself ... he can’t see, and you think, ‘You know what? My life is pretty good’,” Cate told Fairfax Media in 2014.
David McKeon, who will swim the 400-metre freestyle at Rio, credits Emma with giving him a relatively late start in the sport — at the age of 17. “Emma was 15 and began travelling the world: Hawaii, Dubai, America ... so I got my inspiration from her,” says David, 23. “And then at London in 2012, I provided her with some to get her back into swimming seriously again.”
Emma, 22, who will swim the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly and as many as three relays, concurs: “I tried out for the London Olympics, missed it by a little bit, gave it away for a while, and wasn’t sure I wanted to wait for another four years,” she says.
But watching David from the spectator stands at London brought back the memories. “It took me all that time to realise that I did love swimming and loved competing.”
David failed to make the 400 final in 2012, but is hoping for better things at Rio: “Before London, I had only been swimming for 18 months. Now I’ve got a few more years behind me.”
They’re the first brother-sister act on the Australian Olympic swimming team since gold medallist John Konrads and his sister Ilsa at Rome in 1960.
Walk in my shoes
When Jared Tallent finally received his 50-kilometre London Olympics gold medal recently in Melbourne — delayed by four years because the Russian winner of that race was later banned for doping — his sister Rachel was present for the big occasion. The two will be together again at Rio when Rachel, 23, makes her Olympic debut in the 20-kilometre walk. Jared, 31, who will be competing at his third Olympics, also helps coach his younger sister. The Tallents were two of six children raised on a potato farm near Ballarat, west of Victoria state capital Melbourne. “For her to make the Olympic team is very special,” said Jared, who is coached by his wife, Claire, a former Olympian.
More on the kindred side
Annette Edmondson and her brother, Alex, are expected to be included in the Australian Olympic cycling team by early July, when brothers Keiran and Blake Govers should also be officially announced for the “Kookaburras”, the country’s field hockey team. They’ll join the already-named sibling combinations of sisters Carmen and Caroline Marton (taekwondo), brothers Will and Jaime Ryan (sailing), brothers Josh and Nathan Katz (judo) and the modern pentathlon brother-and-sister combo of Max and Chloe Esposito, who, in keeping it in the family, are coached by their father, 1984 Olympian Daniel.