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Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Brazilian?

Jul 23, 2012  - Craig Lord

Who's afraid if the big bad Brazilian? Not James The Missile Magnussen, says the Aussie sprinter who claimed the world 100m freestyle title last year and clocked 47.10, best-ever (and by some) in textile this year.

At the Australian team press conference in London five days out from the start of Olympic action, Magnussen, coached by Brant Best, was asked whether he was afraid of Cesar Cielo, the 50m world and Olympic champion. An odd question, perhaps, for a man who seemed obviously unafraid of the magnitude of the task and men he faced in Shanghai last year. 

The Missile told reporters: "No, I'm not afraid of Cielo. I'm aware he's one of my main competitors. There's also James Roberts from Australia who is faster [this year] than Cesar so I've also got him to worry about. I know that Cesar holds both world records and I do respect him for that, but I think I'm in a good position to win this one."

Added the favourite and a man on a trajectory to become the first Australian since Mike Wenden in 1968 to lift the Olympic blue ribband crown: "I think at this stage where I am at with my preparation and my times at the moment, the biggest competitor here this week for me will be myself and my head space. 

"I feel like if I can overcome the pressures from back home that I know are there, I'm sure I can better my results from last year at the world championships (where he won the 100 metres freestyle) and get the job done. I'm really enjoying the experience and I want to look back on this Olympic Games as a positive, fun experience and I'm not going to let it get to me."

Magnussen said he felt more pressure over the 4x100m freestyle relay in which Aussie expectations of victory over the US 12 years after the smashing guitars - Hall Jr, Thorpey thundering home and all that - at Sydney 2000.

As to whether  he will race the 4x100m heats Sunday morning, we must wait to see. "That hasn't been decided yet. It won't be decided until much closer to the race. I'm still umming and arring whether to swim the heat or not," said Magnussen. "It wouldn't be a bad idea to get an early swim but then again it would be nice to be fresh for the final. So there are a couple of factors to weigh up when talking about that."

Magnussen wants to take down Cielo's 46.91 100m world mark (set in shiny suit in 2009) but London is all about winning. "I think the time I swam at the trials points to it being a possibility [the record] but to be completely honest I have come here to win gold not break world records. 

"If you are going to leave a legacy in the sport that would start with an Olympic gold followed by a world record. The world record at this stage would be a bonus. It may not take a world record to win that race. It may, but whatever the outcome my first and foremost focus is gold."