Emma McKeon using busy schedule to help her relax
EMMA McKeon says the impressive cache of international racing she has built over the past two months will help her relax behind the blocks at the world swimming championships.
McKeon was Australia's most successful swimmer at the Rio Olympics, returning with four medals - a gold, two silver and a bronze - but she sees plenty of room for improvement and has set about building a base of international racing so impressive that by the time she heads to the Tokyo Games, competing on the international stage will be second nature.
McKeon snared bronze in the 200m freestyle in Rio last year but suffered badly from nerves in the 100m butterfly, missing a medal after qualifying second-fastest for the final.
To help combat that, she has embarked on a heavy racing schedule leading into the world championships, competing in five major meets throughout Europe during June and July - a move she credits with bolstering her confidence ahead of the world championships in Budapest.
"Because we have done so much international racing since trials this year and racing those top girls, I definitely feel a lot more relaxed going into worlds because I've already raced them so many times in the last couple of months," said McKeon, whose massive program starts with the 100m butterfly and 4x100m freestyle relay on the opening day of competition on Sunday.
"I just feel really relaxed going into the meet and that's how I race my best. So I'm pretty excited to see how I go.
"In Australia most of us are training with our competitors ... every day and racing against them in main sets every day.
"So it's good to be able to have that practice against other guys over here (in Europe).
"It's different for everyone but for me, I get fitter and get better with the more racing I do ... so I think definitely getting more racing under my belt gives me more confidence going into the racing when I'm fully rested."
While Swimming Australia has marked next year's Gold Coast Commonwealth Games as a "pinnacle" meet in the four-year cycle leading into the 2020 Olympics, McKeon said the world championships were also important as she builds towards Tokyo.
"I think they're all important just because they're the main event of the year and I want to be able to lower my PBs each year at all of the meets, so I find them all equally important," she said.
"Each year I just feel a lot more confident racing internationally, so by the time I get to the Olympics in Tokyo, I think all of these meets will help in that."
McKeon, who trains with Michael Bohl - the Brisbane coach rumoured to be the target for Swimming Australia's high-performance program at Griffith University - will target the 200m in Budapest but is looking forward to gauging her progress in the 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle before likely adding the 200m butterfly to an already heavy program for the Commonwealth Games.
"I'll probably target the 200m free again because I feel that's where I've got the most potential but I enjoy doing other events too and I'm excited to see how I can go in both the 100m fly and 100m free as well," McKeon said.
"I did a good 200m free at the Canet Mare Nostrum meet, so that gave me a bit of confidence.
"When I freshen up, that front-end speed will come, so I'm looking forward to that.
"When I rest up a bit more, I can get a bit more of that speed coming through.
"So I'm really excited to feel that a bit more leading into the meet."
Heats (from 5:30pm)
Women's 100m Butterfly
Men's 400m Freestyle
Women's 200m IM (SF)
Men's 50m Butterfly
Women's 400m Freestyle
Men's 100m Breaststroke
Women's 4x100m Freestyle Relay
Men's 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay