The swimming events wrapped up on Friday and the Team are heading home to Australia with six medals, and the knowledge that the Youth Olympic experience has made them all better athletes.
Competing against World Record holders, backing up for multiple finals just minutes apart, and competing next to Argentinian swimmers as the locals scream the house down will make the athletes stronger in the long run.
Kaylee McKeown is heading home as the top Australian medallist of the Games, with one gold, two silver and one bronze.
The 17-year-old has had a massive year, competing at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games and Senior Pan Pac Games before Buenos Aires 2018.
“It’s definitely great to be back in the racing atmosphere. It’s been a massive year for me so I haven’t been training for this meet for a very long time, so to come out and win some medals for Australia, I’m really happy.”
“I’m really proud of the teammates I’m here with. Without them I wouldn’t be able to do what I did and they’ve been with me every step of the way.”
Backstroke specialist Lewis Blackburn competed in the 50m, 100m and 200m events. He also helped Australia finish fifth in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay – a great result considering only two of the Aussies in the team are freestyle swimmers.
While Blackburn usually focuses on the 100m backstroke, it was the 50m sprint final that saw him record a new Personal Best time of 25.99, whilst competing against the current Senior World Record holder, Kliment Kolesnikov of Russia.
“It was insane to race against the current World Record holder,” the 18-year-old said.
“I’ve never raced someone of that calibre before and it was good race experience and to know that I can go up against those people and not freak myself out and still race to the best of my ability and not get daunted by them.
“I haven’t been focussing on the 50s so I was really relaxed heading into the race and just wanted to give it a crack, so I was stoked to look up and see that I went under 26 seconds for the first time.”
Blackburn’s teammate Ashton Brinkworth had a massive program in Argentina, competing in the 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle events, as well as the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay, mixed 4x100m freestyle relay and mixed 4x100m medley relay.
The 18-year-old from Western Australia said he didn’t quite pull out the times he was hoping for, but that isn’t what he’ll take away from the YOG experience.
“This is the fifth big meet of the year so it’s been a long ride, but I was generally happy about my racing,” Brinkworth said.
“What I took away from the Games wasn’t so much the results, but the experience and having fun as a team and getting up for relays, so I really enjoyed it from that perspective.
“Right now I’m coming from a junior to hopefully move up onto a senior team. Obviously as you get older it gets harder to PB, you can’t go into every meet and expect to PB, so I think I’ve gained a lot of experience emotionally this meet in learning how to get up and race multiple times and put in a good swim for the team.”
Michaela Ryan also had an extensive program in Argentina, including the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly, 200m freestyle, women’s 4x100m medley relay and the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay.
The 16-year-old is coming back to Australia with bronze from the 200 butterfly, silver from the medley relay and another top-10 result in the 100m butterfly.
As the youngest member of the Swim Team, the Queenslander lapped up the opportunity to compete in front of the largest crowd she’s ever seen.
“The experience has been amazing. The pool venue was phenomenal, it exceeded all our expectations,” Ryan said.
“All the officials were amazing, the volunteers were so friendly to us and the entire atmosphere was so good, especially with the Argentinians in the crowd. I have never been in a competition of this magnitude before. The Argentinians were just so insanely loud as soon as one of their athletes stepped out on the pool deck. I’ve never been to something like that.”
The Swim Team have created an unbreakable bond, supporting each other in all the highs and lows of international competition, supported by Swimming Australia coaches James Fowlie and Tracey Menzies.
“Being on the camp in July and then traveling to Fiji together, morale is really high in this group and it’s good fun,” Brinkworth said.
“Everyday we spend here we get closer and closer together. We’re a great bunch of mates and just support each other in everything,” Blackburn added.
The team’s special connection even lets them reach each other amongst the midst of 3000 people in a packed swimming pool – read about the Cooee HERE.
The swimmers enjoyed their last day in Argentina doing a Graffiti Tour around the city before they fly back to Australia on Sunday.
Find all the Australian swimming results HERE.