James Magnussen says Australia’s 4x100m men’s freestyle relay team needed an overhaul after the London Olympics, but believes the new-look line-up is capable of returning to a world-class standard.
The controversial team were the face of Swimming Australia’s much-publicised review into a “toxic” culture in the squad during the 2012 Games.
Magnussen admits there was a hangover from the drama and the subsequent Stilnox investigation, and says it’s been positive for the relay team to enter a rebuilding phase.
Eamon Sullivan, James Roberts and Matt Targett are no longer part of the relay picture heading into the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow later this year, with Magnussen the only surviving member from the team that finished a disappointing fourth in London.
Youngsters Tommaso D’Orsogna, Cameron McEvoy, Kenneth To and Matthew Abood are the new breed and 100m freestyle world champion Magnussen is confident he can lead Australia back to the top at the next Olympics in Brazil in 2016.
“Obviously having myself and Cameron McEvoy, who were first and fourth (individually in 100m freestyle) at the (2013) world championships, gives you a really strong base,” said Magnussen on Wednesday.
“And then we just need two other guys who can hopefully go 48 low or 47.5 for Rio to be in with a shot at a medal.
“There was a bit of carry-over from the Olympics in terms of emotions and memories, but having a completely fresh team gives you a clean slate.”
The Australian swimming championships start next week in Brisbane and Magnussen says he’s found a new focus in his approach.
Magnussen said the personal troubles experienced by Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett in recent months highlighted the need for balance, and the 22-year-old has taken steps to ensure his life isn’t as insular as it was in the lead-up to London.
Accustomed to being the centre of media attention, Magnussen has enjoyed flying under the radar ahead of the selection trials for the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacifics in Brisbane.
“It makes it a lot easier when you can just focus on the swimming and not have to worry about what’s going on outside of the pool. I think that’s been a big advantage,” he said.
“My general aerobic fitness is at a better level this year to what it has in the past. We’ve focused a lot less on speed .. so it’s a matter of whether doing all that work on fitness has taken away from my speed in the first 50.
“I’m hoping as I get older and bigger and stronger, speed will take care of itself.”