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James Magnussen looking forward to sprint battle this summer

by ZwemZa on September 11th, 2017
James Magnussen, middle, on the Rio Olympic podium for the 4x100m freestyle relay last year. Picture: Getty Images

James Magnussen, middle, on the Rio Olympic podium for the 4x100m freestyle relay last year. Picture: Getty Images

James Magnussen is preparing for the fight of his life this summer.

He knows he must get back to his very best form or risk becoming a bit-player in the high-stakes world of freestyle sprinting.

But he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Magnussen said his first reaction to seeing American Caeleb Dressel dominate the world championships final in the 100m freestyle in July was excitement.

Dressel won in a championship record of 47.17sec, a time that only Cameron McEvoy (47.04sec) and Magnussen (47.10sec) have beaten without the aid of a polyurethane bodysuit.

“I was really happy to see that,’’ Magnussen said. “Sometimes it bums me out when I see 47.5sec winning the Olympics (Kyle Chalmers’ time in Rio last year) when I was going 47.1 (in 2012). I was really happy to see Caeleb moving the event forward again. I think we’re finally going to see the rest of the field moving forward with him. I thought my 47.1 would do that but it hasn’t.’’

But the hard fact for 26-year-old Magnussen, the 2011 and 2013 world champion and 2012 Olympic silver medallist, is that unless he can get back to that time, he will no longer be a contender for the biggest honours in the sport.

“I am already at peace with that,’’ he said. “I already knew I would have to get back to my best with the way Cam and Kyle are swimming. I definitely have to be on my game to beat them, and to win internationally.’’

Magnussen skipped the world championships this year to focus on his preparation for next year’s home Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. He will have to be one of the first three Australians in the 100m freestyle at the national trials in February to have the chance to defend his Games title.

But that will be no easy task. He is currently the fourth-ranked Australian, behind McEvoy (47.91sec), 18-year-old Jack Cartwright (who swam 47.97sec to reach the world championships final) and Chalmers (48.20sec before he had heart surgery in June).

Magnussen has not broken 48 seconds since he had a shoulder reconstruction two years ago, and his best time on a European competition tour in June was 48.68sec, although he said he missed an opportunity in Rome.

“I swam 48.7sec in the heat and felt easy and I thought I would light it up in the final but it was a 40-degree day and I didn’t quite get it right,’’ he said.

“I spent too long outside warming down and it sapped me of ­energy. I was a little bit down on myself about that, because as an experienced swimmer I shouldn’t do that.’’

However, after almost two years away from international racing (he swam the relay only at the Rio Olympics) he acknowledged that it was taking time for him to regain his racing instincts.

“I was getting more comfortable with it every time I was on the blocks, but that’s definitely going to be a focus heading into the Commonwealth Games,’’ he said.

Magnussen intends to race ­frequently during the summer, and he also believes he has a new secret weapon at his disposal, in South African biomechanist Ryan Hodierne, who recently joined the NSW Institute of Sport.

He has also accepted a role as a lifestyle “mentor’’ for Van Heusen menswear but that will be one of his few extra-curricular activities over the coming months.

“I’m just head down, bum up, getting through the work,’’ he said.

Nicole Jeffery

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