2017 FINA WORLD SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS
- Sunday, July 23rd – Sunday, July 30th
- Budapest, Hungary
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James Magnussen, who was a stalwart of Australia’s free relays for over four years, but who is not competing in Budapest, took public issue with the Australian coaches’ relay strategies in an interview with Fox Sports yesterday.
Today, Australian head coach Jacco Verhaeren responded to questions about Magnussen’s statements by challenging the “Missile” to qualify and compete if he wants to influence how relays are composed.
Specifically, Magnussen questioned why Australia hasn’t been leading off the 4×100 free relay with its fastest swimmers, both in Budapest, and last summer in Rio.
Last summer in Rio, the Australians led off with James Robert, whose 48.88 was the slowest leadoff leg in the final and put the Aussies in a hole, although Magnussen, Kyle Chalmers, and Cameron McEvoy were able to battle back for a bronze medal.
With Magnussen and Chalmers both not here, the Australians led off the 4×100 final this past Sunday with young Jack Cartwright, who swam a solid 48.34 that put the Australians in 4th after the first 100m. McEvoy, who apparently Magnussen thinks should have led off, split a 48.04 on the third leg, well off his personal best time, and 0.12s slower than he swam in the individual final this week.
One could argue that Magnussen’s grasping at straws here — Australia was DQ’d anyway after anchor Alexander Graham jumped early. However, there is probably a counterargument to be made that Graham may not felt as much pressure for a quick exchange had Australia been in a better position at that point in the race.
In the interview, Magnussen pointed that the two times Australia has won gold in the men’s 4×100 free a major international meet — the 2000 Olympics and the 2011 World Championships — the fastest swimmer (Michael Klim in 2000 and Magnussen in 2011) was given the lead off leg. He implied that Australia’s current coaching team was refusing to follow this good historical precedent and suggested they were trying to get “too cute” by perhaps matching Australian swimmers against other country’s swimmers.
This is is similar, in some sense, to arguments leveled against US coaches in 2013 and 2014. At the 2013 World Championships, the US led off with Nathan Adrian, presumably to match him against Magnussen. Many fans felt that Adrian, at that point the defending Olympic gold medalist in the 100 free, should have anchored the relay, especially after the relatively inexperienced Jimmy Feigen was passed by France on the final leg and the U.S. had to settle for silver. At the 2014 Pan Pacs, the US put Adrian on the second leg, again where he squared off against Magnussen, and again the US was unable to win gold.
It wasn’t until last summer in Rio, where the US led off with Caeleb Dressel and anchored with Adrian, that the Americans were able to win their first world championship or Olympic gold in the men’s 4×100 free since 2009.
Magnussen is not swimming in Budapest this week after taking a break after Rio and having opted to focus on the 2018 Commonwealth Games. You can read his full interview here (videos for Australian viewers only).