’Going to win gold’: McKeown’s winning mentality
TAYLOR McKeown will head to the Gold Coast Games with a Commonwealth title and a bucketload of international experience under her belt.
But the breaststroke specialist wants to wind back the clock to her rookie days in a bid to shed the pressure she believes has led to "terrible" swims in recent big races.
McKeown displayed the temperament of a veteran in her first international campaign in Glasgow four years ago to claim a surprise gold in the 200m breaststroke.
But the medal has been like an albatross around the neck of the Sunshine Coast swimmer, who has battled the weight of expectation in major campaigns since.
McKeown headed into the final of the Rio Olympics with the fastest qualifying time in the 200m breaststroke but by her own admission "let the pressure get to me".
"When I look back, what happened is in 2014, I was a rookie on the team, I didn't know what it was going to be like and I just got up there and did what I know best, which was sticking to my race plan.
"And I produced this fantastic result," she said of her gold medal swim.
"In 2015, the pressure was there because I'd made an Australian team before, I'd got a gold medal - I got a bit sick, so 2015 was a write-off year.
"In 2016, my first Olympics and I was up there for a gold medal chance and I let the pressure get to me.
"In 2017, same thing.
"So I've really got to stop being so pressured in finals and swim them like it's a heat or a semi-final which I know will get me a great result."
McKeown is no shrinking violet.
She loves the atmosphere of a home crowd and will welcome the raucous noise that a large group of family and friends will make in the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre stands supporting her and younger sister Kaylee if both make the team, as planned.
"At the world championships last year, before my 100m race, my friend screamed out: 'Go Taylor' and I had the biggest smile on my face and I was genuinely happy to be there," she said.
"Whereas when it's dead quiet, that's when the nerves kick in a bit, which sometimes isn't the best thing.
"I really love walking out and waving to my family and the Australians in the crowd."
To beat her own expectations, McKweon will try to reconnect with the fearless rookie racer she was in 2014 - the young gun who knew only to follow her race plan, thinking little of the results that could follow.
"I was very nervous in 2014 but I was very focused at the same time," McKeown said.
"And I didn't know any different.
"I was a rookie, there was no pressure on me to win or anything and I think I just thrived on being so self driven and having no external pressure.
"Whereas this year, it's like, look what you've done, you're going to win gold.
"It's hard to bring it back to, swim the race first, but that's just how I will go about it, bringing it back to basics."