Olympian James Magnussen Retires After Decade-Long International Career

Two-time world champion sprinter James Magnussen is officially retiring after an international career that spanned a decade and saw him rack up major medals in the double-digits, Swimming Australia announced in a press release Tuesday.

“I have taken the time to make the best decision for myself moving forward and to do that I wanted to make sure I was in the best space mentally and physically before announcing my retirement,” Magnussen said. “At 28 years of age I feel I could have swum at another Olympic Games, but with the lofty standards I have held myself to over the years and the high expectations I have, I believe now is the right time to step away from the sport.”

Magnussen won back-to-back world championships in the 100 free in 2011 and 2013, becoming the first Australian man to win a world title in that event.

In that time, he also took silver in the 100 at the 2012 London Olympics, just .01 behind gold medalist Nathan Adrian. Following multiple Commonwealth Games gold medals in Glasgow in 2014, he had shoulder surgery in 2015.

He bounced back with a bronze medal on Australia’s 4×100 freestyle relay in Rio in 2016.

“He should be very proud of what he has achieved – very few people in the world have reached these heights in competitive sport,” Swimming Australia president John Bertrand said.

Magnussen ended 2017 as the fourth-fastest Australian in the 100m free (48.68), while also ranked as the third-fastest Aussie 50m freestyler (21.98). With minimal racing in 2018, he closed the calendar year as the fifth-fastest 100m freestyler (48.79) in Australia and the third-fastest 50m freestyler in 22.05.

As of July 2018, Magnussen was “50-50” on retiring before the Tokyo Games.

“Through swimming I have made lifelong friends and created memories that I will treasure forever. The people that I have worked with on a daily basis have been my source of motivation and inspiration,” the six-foot-six Magnussen, also known as “The Missile,” added. “To my strength coaches, sport scientist, biomechanist, mind coach, dietician, manager, masseuse and physiotherapist, I have always been humbled by the time and effort you have invested in my career. You guys kept me smiling every day and hopefully I reciprocated that!”

“To my coaches Mitch and Lach Falvey, Brant Best and Michael Mullens, you have shaped not only the swimmer I am but the man I am. Each of you have been a mentor to me and helped me navigate through the highest highs and lowest lows. I am forever grateful to have had you in my life and I know I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I did without your input.”

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1 year ago

Great career and fun guy to watch in the pool. Best of luck!

1 year ago

I know he wasn’t a favorite for his behavior before/at the 2012 Olympics and his failing to capture the gold, but he had one hell of a career.

I respect the hell out of him for being able to rebound to even get silver at that Olympics. He led off the relay to begin the meet in 48.03. Nearly a full second slower than he was at his trials – I think this would’ve mentally broken so many. Rallied all the way back to go 47.63 in the semis and 47.53 in the finals.

That takes some serious mental toughness. Respect.

Reply to  SWIMGUY12345
1 year ago

What behavior? Genuinely curious. Didnt seriously follow swimming until ’14

Old Man Chalmers
Reply to  Markster
1 year ago

From the moment Magnussen popped that 47.10, he was very cocky and led many to think he believed the gold medal should be given to him.
Australia’s mens 4×100 free relay team behaved poorly on the training camp because they took stillnox, a sedative banned by SAL because of it’s role in Grant Hackett’s mental health decline. (It’s not banned by WADA, I’m clearing this up because some people think it is) They then disturbed other members of the Australian team throughout the night. During the Olympics, they bullied other members of the team, particularly those who were new. The ringleaders were Magnussen, Sullivan and Targett.

Reply to  Old Man Chalmers
1 year ago

The Stilnox “problem” of London 2012 opened up a huge inquiry by Swim Australia that led to findings which revealed a lot of boorish behavior that was totally out of line for those world class swimmers who were involved. For me, that moment crystallized the problems with The Rocket’s personality and what we would later see: a long, slow decline to Rio and, finally, to today. A troubled athlete with immense talent, he leaves the sport with a blemished record.

Ole 99
1 year ago

Just a point of clarification…
Magnussen was “the missile”
Roberts was “the rocket”

Alpine Stars
Reply to  Old Man Chalmers
1 year ago

Magnussen is blamed for creating a toxic team environment for Team Australia at the Olympics. His bullying will no longer be an excuse for Australia to choke. 2020 should be interesting.

Reply to  Markster
1 year ago

The aussies, mainly the 4×100 freestylers, worked hard and played harder during the games, honestly they should’ve smashed us in the relay, and mags was all set to rip under 47. mistakes were made, but his 47.10 at Aussie trials made my whole high school team reconsider life! He’ll be missed, James you inspired a whole bunch of kids to go on to do great things in and out of the pool!

Reply to  Markster
1 year ago

The Aussie 4×100 relay guys were sort of prematurely celebrating their “inevitable” win, and kept running through the halls at the hotel, keeping the rest of the Aussie team awake, banging on girls’ doors and stuff. Then they lost the relay. Then James lost the 100, and there was this whole thing about the Australian swimming federation needing to review their whole team’s culture ahead of the next major competitions. Basically, it’s likely that a lot of the upsets the Aussie male sprinters suffered in 2012 were due to their behavior outside the pool getting in the way of the entire team’s performance at the Games. But in fairness to James, he seemed to learn from it, and from what… Read more »

13 % Chinese person
Reply to  Jack
1 year ago

. Magnussen at least got a medal & in the future is the only thing that will be noted . .

1 year ago


About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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