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Fri Apr 18 07:46:57 SAST 2014

Magnussen impresses in Australian relay

Julian Linden, Reuters | 29 July, 2012 14:080 Comments
James Magnussen of Australia looks on after competing in the 400m freestyle heats on day 2 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre on July 29, 2012 in London, England
Image by: Adam Pretty / Getty Images

They call themselves the “weapon of mass destruction”. It is a menacing nickname but not unwarranted, at least in the swimming pool.

The Australian men’s 4x100 metres freestyle relay team have been demolishing their opponents for the past year and now they are on course to win the Olympic gold medal on Sunday.

Despite not racing with their best four swimmers, the Australians still topped the qualifiers during Sunday’s heats, stopping the clock at three minutes, 12,29 seconds.

But they did give an insight into how strong they were when they unleashed their biggest gun, James Magnussen.

Dubbed the “missile” by Australian media, Magnussen showed why he is the favourite to win the individual 100 freestyle when he produced the fastest split time of the morning, 47,35 seconds, but still looking like he was having a weekend paddle.

In the lane next to him was Jason Lezak, remembered forever for his stunning anchor leg in Beijing that ultimately helped Michael Phelps win his eight gold medals.

Lezak dived in almost half a second before Magnusson, a big margin for elite sprinters, but finished 0,30 behind as the US qualified second fastest overall.

Qualified countries can change their lineups for the final but the makeup of the US team remains uncertain with Michael Phelps certain to be added and possibly Ryan Lochte.

“There could be a lot of politics but our team is pretty mature — we understand the coaches probably know best,” said Matt Grevers.

“I believe they will put the best possible relay out there. If that includes me that’s fine, I’m pumped.

“You have to play with what is hot and Ryan Lochte is a good hand right now.”

Russia finished third and France were fourth.

South Africa will also take part in the final after qualifying with the 7th fastest time.

France’s Alain Bernard, the individual 100 champion in Beijing, is retiring after the Olympics after only qualifying for the relay.

“It is a special moment as it is my last day as a high-level athlete, so it has a special flavour,” he said.

“But leaving emotions aside, the job this morning was to qualify for the final and out of the four that swam this morning, only two will swim this evening.

“We are not yet sure who.”

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