Magnussen sets the pace in the post Super Suit era
“Where the hell did he come from?” A fair call from Michael Phelps, the 14 times Olympic gold medal swimmer, after James Magnussen had whupped the American in the first leg of the world championship 4 x 100 relay final in Shanghai.
It was a phenomenal swim: 47.49, the fastest ever apart from Eamon Sullivan and Alain Bernard, and eventually Brazilian Cesar Cielo’s 46.91, all in a super-suit – now banned.
Phelps should know the benefit of the super-suit. He wore one to win a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Games. That’s why Phelps was so gobsmacked. He has never swum anywhere near Magnussen’s time in a customary costume.
FINA has made plenty of dumb decisions over the years, but allowing the super-suit, which gave extra buoyancy on the top of the water to swim faster, was just legalising cheating.
It ranks as one of the governing body’s worst blunders.
While the super-suit was legal, 43 world records were smashed in the last worlds in Rome in 2009.
So far in Shanghai after six nights, none.
Germany’s Paul Biedermann is the perfect example.
* He won 400 freestyle gold in Rome in a super-suit, setting a world record 3.40.07. In Shanghai he came third, nearly four seconds slower.
* And won 200 free gold in Rome, setting a new world record 1.42.00. In Shanghai, third, nearly two seconds slower.
All of which makes Magnussen’s 100 time something very special.
In this day and age, the internet works overtime telling all your opponents just what you’re doing, even what you’re had for breakfast.
But Magnussen has been flying under the radar. Not any more. His performances are now out in the open.
Magnussen has a very shrewd coach in Brandt Best, who knows what’s best for his client. And he knows what makes Magnussen tick.
When he was in his teens playing rugby league as a second rower at Port Macquarie on the NSW north coast, Magnussen was an “in-your-face” footballer, according to Best.
“Magnussen wasn’t the sort of bloke you wanted to upset. His automatic reaction was “bring-it-on”.
The now 20 year-old agrees.
“That was a pretty important part of my life, being able to learn that sort of toughness: get hit, get back up, and keep going.
“Just 18 months ago, I was at Uni and didn’t have any thoughts about swimming as a career. But all that changed when I came to live in Sydney”.
The rest, as they say, is history, for Magnussen to become the first Aussie man to rule the world of swimming since Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett, and the first Australian male to win a world championship 100 free in 14 attempts, and hopefully an Olympic gold in London next year, the first since Michael Wenden in 1968.
That will be 44 years later.
The flying Dutchman Pieter van der Hoogenband puts it all in perspective.
“Hoogie” was the last swimmer in a customary costume to hold the world 100 freestyle record in 2000 with 47.84. It took eight years for that record to be broken by Frenchman Alain Bernard and Aussie Eamon Sullivan in super-suits down to 46.94, until Brazilian Cesar Cielo swum 46.91 in Rome at the last world championships.
“I rate Magnusson’s swim as far superior to Cielo’s, but the record books don’t sustain that belief,” was how “Hoogie” described the Aussie.
Not for long.
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