James Magnussen has been the fastest 100m freestyle swimmer each of the last four years, but an aspiring physicist now appears to be the man with the best chance of ending a 12-year drought at the Rio Olympics.
Cameron McEvoy defeated Magnussen in the 100m free final at the Australian Championships on Tuesday. It’s the second straight year McEvoy beat Magnussen at Nationals.
Magnussen won the 100m free at the 2011 and 2013 World Championships, but now McEvoy may be the one tasked with winning Australia’s first individual Olympic swimming gold medal by a man since Athens 2004.
“I’ve been what everyone would call an underdog in the past, so it’s a new feeling to be the hunted,” McEvoy told reporters after the final in Sydney (highlights here).
McEvoy, a 20-year-old physics buff, topped Magnussen 48.06 to 48.18 in the final Tuesday. It was not as great of a margin as at the 2014 Australian Championships, where McEvoy prevailed 47.65 to 47.92.
And McEvoy also touched first at the biggest international meet of 2014, the Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia. There, McEvoy swam 47.82, with Olympic champion Nathan Adrian way back in 48.30 and Magnussen in third at 48.36.
McEvoy did not make the Australian team for the London Olympic 100m free, won by Adrian by .01 over Magnussen.
Magnussen, 23, changed coaches last year and is arguably the most scrutinized Australian swimmer since Ian Thorpe.
“That’s pretty disappointing. I shouldn’t be swimming 48s,” Magnussen said of his swim Tuesday, according to the Courier-Mail. “[Losing and the time] both equally pissed me off. Losing is probably worse.”
In 2012, Magnussen clocked 47.10 in the 100m free, the best time since the fast suit era. His top time in 2013 slowed to 47.53 and in 2014 was 47.59.
Meanwhile, McEvoy improved the last three years from 49.19 (2011) to 48.58 (2012) to 47.88 (2013) and 47.65 (2014). Only Magnussen was quicker last year.
Both McEvoy and Magnussen must take notice of Kyle Chalmers, who finished fourth Tuesday in, reportedly, the fastest time ever by a 16-year-old.
Chalmers, who had size 15 feet by age 13, clocked 48.69, likely putting him in the Australian 4x100m free relay lineup at the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, in August.
Australia failed to make the podium in the relay at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 World Championships but topped the U.S. for gold at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships.
In 2014, the U.S. had two men swim sub-48.7 for the entire year (Adrian and Michael Phelps). Australia put four men sub-48.7 in Tuesday’s final alone.
“I reckon the rest of the world will probably sit up and take notice of that,” Magnussen said.