The final chapter of Geoff Huegill’s fairy tale swimming comeback may have been written after his hopes of a London Olympic swan song were dashed at trials in Adelaide on Wednesday night.
The 33-year-old finished fifth in the 100m butterfly final in 52.50 seconds, falling short of the top-two finish needed to extend his remarkable return to a third Games.
Chris Wright, 23, claimed the race in 51.67, with Jayden Hadler (52.09) edging out Matt Targett (52.24) and Nick D’Arcy (52.47) for the second individual spot.
Huegill said after the race he was unsure whether or not he would continue swimming or retire for a second time, having made a return after shedding 45kg to claim gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
After proving he could still compete at the highest level with two minor medals at last year’s world championship, Huegill had hoped to bow out in London, but a preparation disrupted by illness and a strong field of up-and-coming swimmers ultimately got the better of him.
“I was just reminiscing last night, this time four years ago I was asking the questions of the swimmers as they came out,” Huegill said on pool deck after the race.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could get this far.
“It just goes to show if you set your goals, you can achieve anything.”
He said he would make a decision on his future after Easter.
Huegill retired in 2006 before a lifestyle of partying and bingeing on food and alcohol saw his weight balloon out to 138kg.
However in 2008 he announced his intention to make a comeback and completed his remarkable return by winning 100m butterfly gold in Delhi.
Wright’s victory came despite a serious back injury last year that saw him almost retire from the sport.
He has also qualified for the 200m butterfly in London.
“I think I’ve come back stronger (from the injury). I’m just stoked to get on the team and to get two swims,” Wright said.
James Magnussen completed an unexpected sprint double by powering to victory in the 50m freestyle final in 21.74 seconds.
The 100m freestyle world champion, who clocked 47.10 in the 100m final to fall just short of Cesar Cielo’s world record, emerged as genuine gold medal contender in the 50m event in London despite initially regarding it as “a bit of fun”.
“I’ve ridden the high from the 100 win right through the week and it’s a great way to finish,” Magnussen said.
Eamon Sullivan finished second in 21.92 to secure an individual berth at his third Olympics, just ahead of Matt Abood (21.94).
Sullivan, 26, said he felt for Abood but was relieved to overcome several frustrating years of injury setbacks.
“The last three years, the only thing that has got me through all those injuries and all the setbacks and time out of the water and the disappointing results is the thought of London,” Sullivan said.
“So to finally get there is a good enough reward, it’s why we swim.”
Meanwhile Libby Trickett further boosted her hopes of adding an individual spot to her 100m relay berth in London, as she qualified third fastest for Thursday night’s final of the 50m freestyle.
Trickett clocked 24.86, to finish behind sisters Cate (24.55) and Bronte (24.78) Campbell.
Belinda Hocking smashed the field in the 200m backstroke final in 2:06.68 ahead of Meagen Nay (2:07.83), who booked her ticket to London.
Kylie Palmer scored an upset win in the women’s 800m freestyle final, clocking an impressive 8:26.60 to defeat Jessica Ashwood (8:27.97).