World No.1 Kaylee McKeown will not compete in the women’s 200 metres medley at the Olympic Games and instead focus on her backstroke events.
Australian national team head swimming coach Rohan Taylor confirmed the news on Thursday, citing a tough schedule.
McKeown, 20, is the top-ranked swimmer in the world in three events coming into the Tokyo competition but the medley would have been in conflict with the 100m backstroke, for which a strong challenge is expected.
Taylor said it was a huge decision.
“Absolutely it is. But, you know, you got a rookie coming in and the Olympics, it’s going to be a big experience for her, it’s a big call,” he told reporters.
“They’ve gone for months talking about it and I respect that decision, they’re going to focus on the backstrokes and medley relay.”
The withdrawal could be a blow to Australia’s hopes of taking on the United States in the pool.
The Queenslander was a highlight of the Australian Olympic trials last month, setting a world record in the 100 metres backstroke and posting strong performances in both the 200m backstroke and 200m medley.
The swimming competition gets under way on Saturday.
She has made the decision with her coach and will have a chance to take on more events at other Games, Taylor said.
“She’s never done it before,” he said of the Olympics.
“It’s new to her and I think emotionally we need to respect that if it’s something she’s not familiar with, but then in the future we need to make sure she’s familiar with it because she is such a weapon in so many different facets.”