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M100 Free: Magnificent Magnussen - 47.63

Jul 28, 2011  - Craig Lord

Day 5 finals, Oriental Sports Center, Shanghai

Men's 100m freestyle

James Magnussen, 20, became the first Australian to win the world 100m crown in swimming history, his 47.63sec setting a standard for a new generation of sprinting, the silver to 2007 champion, Brent Hayden, of Canada, in 47.95 and the only other sub-48 of the final, the bronze to William Meynard, of France, on 48.00, that locking out defending champion Cesar Cielo, of Brazil, by 0.01sec.

In the popular theatrical walk-out presentation that brings swimmers out to their blocks one by one at these championships, Magnussen was last out as the owner of lane 4. By the time he reached his seat all rivals were undressed and standing behind their blocks. The 20-year-old showed great maturity on the cusp of his first solo world-title fight: no sign of panic, he took his time to take shoes and top off before turning to the pool, his focus singular, his mission blanking out all distraction. 

The pretender flinched a little on his blocks as the starter started but was not about to be thrown. A touch faster down the first lap than on his way to a 47.49sec world textile mark leading Australia to victory in the 4x100m freestyle last Sunday, the Brant Best-coached sprinter flipped over in 22.94, Cielo first through ijn 22.63, Fabien Gilot (FRA) on 22.79. Out of the turn, Magnussen surged into his stroke and by half-way home he was level with the leaders. Cielo looked set to hang on until about 15m out from the wall, Magnussen's roll unstoppable as Hayden and Meynard were next in line among the crew with most left in the tank before the clock stopped.

The race marked the first time that an Olympic or world title final had two men in textile suits race inside 48sec, while the USA, once the powerhouse to beat in sprint freestyle, has not had a swimmer on the blue ribband podium since Antony Ervin's victory in 2001.

Magnussen said: "I'm so rapt with that. I got to the end of the pool and it was a bit of an out of body experience when I saw the No.1. I was just so elated and I had a bit of a celebration there. It means the world and I know it means the world to Australian swimming as well. First man to win that event at a world titles for Australia is a pretty big deal and I think it puts men's sprinting in Australia back in the spotlight."

Pressure was something to feed on. "That's something I'm happy to have on my shoulders," said the champion. "There's been a lot of pressure this week and it's been a bit of a burden since the relay but I've shown that I'm able to deal with that pressure now and I'm looking forward to dealing with a little bit more coming into next year."

Had he seen where others were in the lanes alongside him? "I was just concentrating on getting to the end. I could see the whole time with my peripheral vision. I knew I was drawing close to Cesar with 25 to go and that with 10 to go I was pulling away. It was just a confirmation for me to look up and see No.1 but it felt great."

His achievement had shed new light on his aspirations on the clock. "In a few interviews last year i said I thought 47.5 would win the Olympics. I guess that 46.9 of Cesar's is starting to look very human and a real goal of mine now moving forwards."

Magnussen gave a glimpse of behind the scenes of his apparent calmness and control when he said: "I had the pneumonia coming in and I had a little bit of a crisis of confidence there for a couple of weeks, didn't even know if I would be able to race here, so to get that swim out of the way in the relay on the first night let me know exactly where I was sitting which was not all that bad. But like I said the biggest thing for me was dealing with those pressures of being in the spotlight and having a lot of pressure on my shoulders and being able to come up with the goods."

Magnussen's magnificent effort masked the superb performance of Hayden, out in 22.92, just 0.02sec up on the Australia, and back in 25.03, third best return of the race, Meynard second best and one of only three men, including the champion, inside 25sec, on 24.98. The other sub-25 returner was Sebastiaan Verschuren, who with Meynard (23.02) produced a rare 23-plus opening split, the plus part of it, 0.52, a hesitation too far in the company he was keeping and one that left him at 48.27. Expect more to come from the land of Pieter Van den Hoogenband, Olympic champion in 2000 and 2004 who also had a mean return kick in him. 

The race tonight suggested that the back-burners have it over the front men of the sprint world when it comes to getting their hand to the wall first over 100m.

Hayden said: "It’s awesome. I was hungry to get the medal. The work I had done on the start really paid off with my reaction time off the blocks being one of the best.’’

The Canadian, who had several family members in the stands, including his parents and fiancé, added: "I knew I had done a 47.98 less than a year ago at the Commonwealth Games so that was something that I kept in mind. I really took the experience I have gained over the years and applied it for this final."

Hayden’s coach Tom Johnson said:  We put the emphasis on more training this season and reduced the number of competitions. So that meant the results this season were not at the level he was use to.  But we stayed the course and kept moving forward.  It really bodes well for the future."

The result: 

  • 1. James Magnussen (AUS) 47.63
  • 2. Brent Hayden (CAN) 47.95
  • 3. William Meynard (FRA) 48.00
  • 4. Cesar Cielo (BRA) 48.01
  • 5. Fabien Gilot (FRA) 48.13
  • 6. Nathan Adrian (USA) 48.23
  • 7. Luca Dotto (ITA) 48.24
  • 8. Sebastiaan Verschuren (NED) 48.27

Some significant splits compared:

  • 2011: 22.94; 47.63 (24.69) James Magnussen (AUS) Shanghai gold 
  • 2000: 23.16; 47.84 (24.68) Van den Hoogendand (NED) Sydney Olympic Games
  • 2011: 23.10; 47.49 (24.39) James Magnussen 4x100m relay lead-off Shanghai
  • 2003: 23.05; 48.42 (25.37) Popov Barcelona gold
  • 2004: 23.27; 48.17 (24.90) VD Hoogenband Athens gold  
  • 2004: 23.57; 48.56 (24.99) Thorpe Athens bronze
  • 2007: 23.24; 48.43 (25.19) Magnini Melbourne gold
  • 2007: 23.07; 48.43 (25.37) Hayden Melbourne gold
  • 2007: 22.92; 48.47 (25.55) Sullivan Melbourne bronze 
  • 2007: 22.83; 48.51 (25.68) Cielo Melbourne 4th
  • 2009: 22.17; 46.91 (24.74) Cielo Rome gold (non-textile)
  • 2010: 22.82; 47.98 (25.16) Hayden Delhi gold

History in the making:


  • WR (all suits): 46.91 Cesar Cielo (BRA) July Rome 2009
  • WR (textile):   47.49 James Magnusses (AUS) Shanghai July 24, 2011
  • First man inside 55.0: John Devitt (AUS) 54.6 Vrisbane January 28 1957
  • First man inside 50.0: Jim Montgomery (USA) 49.99 Montreal July 25 1976
  • First man inside 49.0: Matt Biondi (USA) 48.95 Mission Viejo, August 6. 1985
  • First man inside 48.0: Pieter VD Hoogenband (NED) 47.84 Sydney, September 19, 2000

World-class stats:

  • World Record wins:  Cielo 2009
  • Title retained: Matt Biondi (USA); Alex Popov (RUS); Filippo Magnini (ITA)
  • Most titles: Popov, 3
  • Biggest margin: Biondi beat Stephan Caron (FRA) by 0.79 in 1986.
  • Closest shave: Magnini and Canadian Brent Hayden (CAN) shared gold in 48.43 in 2007, with Eamon Sullivan (AUS) 0.04sec adrift and 17 months away from a 47.05 in a new era of fast-suit speed.

From the archive:

By 2003, the career of Sprint Tsar Alex Popov (RUS) was thought to be on the wane. Seven years beyond his historic defence of both Olympic sprint crowns in Atlanta and the trauma of being stabbed in the stomach by a watermelon seller, Popov stunned his rivals with the fastest 100m victory of his career “ 48.42 “ for a record fourth world title. He also claimed the dash crown. A member of the International Olympic Committee and Vice-President of the Russian swim federation, while his mentor, Gennadi Touretski is guiding Australian Ian Thorpe on the comeback trail.

As a result of non-textile suits in 2008 and 2009, the 47.98 at which Canada’s Brent Hayden led the world rankings in 2010 three years after sharing the world title with Filippo Magnini in 2007 ranks as the 78th best performance in swimming history. In the context of a textile suit, it was the second best ever.