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‘I don’t believe in comebacks’: Magnussen edges closer to career call

by ZwemZa on September 15th, 2018

Tough call: James Magnussen is on the verge of a career-defining decision. Photo: AAP

James Magnussen will give himself just over a month to make a final decision about his swimming career as the former world champion and Olympic medallist weighs up whether to push ahead to a final campaign at the Tokyo Games.

The 27-year-old has been in deep contemplation since the Commonwealth Games in April. He wanted to ensure he made his decision without emotion clouding his judgment and has been exploring a variety of career options out of the pool.

Now he must decide whether to take that leap sooner rather than later, with a genuine Olympic tilt requiring a return to the pool in January and complete mental and physical commitment.

What he won’t do is go back on his choice, with Magnussen saying he is no fan of comebacks. His decision will be final should he decide to hang up the togs after a decorated career in which he has been one of the faces of the sport in Australia for the best part of a decade.

“It is a big decision and I guess I’ve swum in the age of comebacks. And I don’t believe in them. I don’t want to be that guy that announces my retirement and then says I’m making a comeback,” Magnussen said.

“Once I make the call I want to be content with it and move on wholeheartedly and throw myself into that next stage of life with no trepidation.

“I’m trying to get a bit of a feel for what my options are outside of swimming, just trying to find what I’m passionate about. And then I think really trying to get a clear picture around that, which will then help me decide whether I should be doing that now or would I rather be doing that in two years’ time.”

Once the dominant male sprinter in the sport, Magnussen has suffered from shoulder injuries in the latter stages of his career which have robbed him of his natural speed. He said he was enough of a realist to know that any desire to return to the top of elite competition may not align with his physical capabilities.

“The big thing for me is a bit of a realisation about where my body is at compared to earlier in my career. I’ve always set myself lofty standards. I expect the best out of my preparation and results,” Magnussen said.

“I gave myself the best opportunity possible at the Commonwealth Games. I ticked every box and I thought that would result in somewhere around the 47-mid mark [for the 100m freestyle]. And it didn’t. That was pretty disappointing because that used to be a weekly swim back in the day.”

With Kyle Chalmers and Jack Cartwright now the two leading 100m freestylers among the Australian men, Magnussen knows he would have to return to somewhere near his historical best to earn an individual swim in Tokyo.

What keeps the fires smouldering, though, is the fact major meets are being won with times in the 48s range. Even with his shoulder concerns, a big part of Magnussen still believes that’s well within his reach.

“The other thing that just keeps me second-guessing is that the world doesn’t seem to be getting any faster. We hardly see anyone dropping into those 47-point times all season. Pan Pacs, Europeans, Comm Games… a 48 is winning everything.

“That makes me second-guess again because if you can drop a 47 you are probably going to win something decent. I was doing that on a weekly basis for a few years there. It’s very tempting.

“That’s the mental struggle I’m in at the moment, that it’s there for the taking. But realistically my body is a step off that. As an athlete, you are always thinking, ‘What if I can get that one more good performance out of myself’. But sometimes you have to be realistic  and ask if you are going to spend two years of your life chasing something that’s unattainable.”

Magnussen has always been his own man and has progressed to be a respected senior figure of the Dolphins squad. But the final call on his career won’t come down to a committee.

“It’s very personal. I’m not making a decision to please anyone else and I’m not worried about upsetting anyone. I’ve spoken to my parents, they are probaby the ones closest to me, but throughout my career I have made big decisions mostly on my own. I just have to be at peace with whatever call I make.”

Phil Lutton | The Sydney Morning Herald

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