“I was going to give up swimming and just have an easy life,” Giuliani said. “I did a bit of work experience with a plumbing company, a fire protection company. I was cutting pipes. I ended up sticking to swimming and I’m so happy. I was super nervous.

“I used to have to defrost the window of my car for probably four months of the year [in Tasmania]. There’s no more of that any more, which is great.

“I back myself being one of the toughest blokes in that field and I know I want it the most. It was all heart.

“I could not have done anything more. Every day, I’ve slaughtered myself. I’ve pushed myself to breaking point. It’s been the hardest training I’ve ever done in my life by far. For three months this year I was a zombie. I couldn’t do anything.

“I thought I’d be a little bit faster tonight, but hey, I won. I’ve done a lot of work.”

Rising Australian swimming star Max Giuliani.

Rising Australian swimming star Max Giuliani.Credit: Funky Trunks

Asked if his mates from Tasmania were watching on television back home, Giuliani replied: “They’ve been trying to call me all day. I said I can’t answer boys. I’m locked in.”

Neill, who competed in the 200m freestyle three years ago in Tokyo, was just as happy.

“Lucky lane one,” Neill said. “That 200 free is a ding-dong battle. It’s really nice.”

Meanwhile, McKeown, Australia’s backstroke queen, made it two wins in two nights with a comfortable victory just outside world record pace in the 100m backstroke.

At the turn, McKeown was under world record pace by 0.15 seconds before touching the wall first in 57.41 seconds.

Kaylee McKeown celebrates her 100m backstroke win on Tuesday night.

Kaylee McKeown celebrates her 100m backstroke win on Tuesday night. Credit: Getty

It was the second-fastest time in history and 0.08 seconds outside her world record from last year.

McKeown finished ahead of Mollie O’Callaghan (57.88), who officially booked her first spot in an individual Olympic event after competing in Tokyo as a relay swimmer.

“I was a bit disappointed with that,” McKeown said on Channel 9 afterwards before elaborating later.

“My training’s shown otherwise. But I book myself another ticket to Paris, so for me that’s just another chance to go faster.”

McKeown lowered her own world record in October in Hungary with an eye-catching time of 57.33 seconds and all signs indicate the 22-year-old is an excellent chance of becoming the first woman since American Natalie Coughlin in 2008 to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals in the event.

McKeown’s gold medal in Tokyo, where she held off Kylie Masse and Regan Smith, was Australia’s only first place in the event since the race was first added to the Olympic program in 1924 for women.

McKeown now owns nine of the fastest 10 times in women’s 100m backstroke history. Her admission that she wasn’t completely happy with the time shows the high standards she sets herself.

McKeown had the last laugh against Smith at last year’s world championships in Japan by pulling off the ultimate backstroke gold medal trifecta (50m, 100m and 200m events).

Kaylee McKeown.

Kaylee McKeown. Credit: Getty

Smith will race next week at the US trials in Indianapolis where McKeown and her team will get a firm gauge of where the American is positioned six weeks out from the Olympics.

McKeown is aiming to win three individual gold medals in Paris – the 100m and 200m backstroke events, plus the 200m individual medley. Shane Gould is the only Australian swimmer to achieve the feat, doing so at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

O’Callaghan is more likely to pick up medals in her 100m and 200m freestyle events, which take place later in the week at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre.

“I’m happy with anything, to be honest,” O’Callaghan said.

Women’s 100m breaststroke

It was heartache for Abbey Harkin on Tuesday night, with the talented breaststroker falling to fourth in the women’s 100m breaststroke final.

Jenna Strauch (1:06.90), Ella Ramsay (1:06.94) and Sienna Toohey (1:07.01) finished top three, but all missed the qualifying time of 1:06.31.

Harkin, who made a semi-final at the world championships in Fukuoka last year, finished fourth in 1:07.18.

Men’s 100m backstroke


Isaac Cooper secured his spot on another Olympic team with a close victory in the men’s 100m butterfly before declaring that he wouldn’t want to race himself in Wednesday night’s 50m freestyle duel.

“You don’t just jump into the 50 freestyle and do well,” Cooper said. “I’ve been training for this for a long time. If anyone is walking into this competition thinking it’s going to be handed to them, they’ve got another thing coming. The only person I wouldn’t want to race is myself.”