Magnussen swaps World Cup for club meets to keep rivals guessing

Hunted … James Magnussen in action at Homebush.
Hunted … James Magnussen in action at Homebush.

WORLD 100 metres freestyle champion James Magnussen launched his Olympic gold medal campaign with a victory in the men's 15-years-and-over race at a humble club meet in Sydney yesterday, and then revealed he wasn't competing on the big stage because he wanted to keep his rivals guessing.

Magnussen became the first Australian to be crowned the world 100m champion in July when he won the glamour event at Shanghai in a blistering 47.63 seconds, but the 20-year-old from Port Macquarie knows all too well the victory had made his scalp the most sought-after in the aquatic world. He told The Sun-Herald he decided to miss the World Cup series, which had so far been contested in Dubai, Sweden, Moscow and Berlin, because he doesn't want his rivals to become too familiar with him.

''The best thing for me at the moment is to do carnivals like this instead of the World Cup because the other guys won't get the chance to race me or have the chance to get used to my tactics and the way I swim,'' he said after clocking 49.54s in his first competitive race since Shanghai. ''Being the hunted rather than the hunter is definitely something I'm not used to but I'm still chasing that world record so, as long as I have that in front of me, I'll keep moving forward.''

Magnussen used the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre Squad's meet to kickstart his motor before an important series of races - including next year's Olympic trials - but he admitted memories of his historic victory flooded back as he waited to compete.

''Putting the cap and goggles on in the marshalling area, there was a few flashbacks to the last time I raced, which was the gold medal at the worlds,'' he said. ''Things have changed [for me] a little, but I think it's about getting back into that routine now and competing in carnivals like this just to get a feel for it and to get back to where I was.''

He also reaffirmed his mission to torpedo Brazilian Cesar Cielo's record of 46.91s, set in a now-outlawed polyurethane suit in 2009, in London. ''Too many people aren't willing to chase what other people dismiss as unachievable,'' he said. ''While those world records were done in suits they were still done by humans - a swimmer - and there's no reason why I can't chase that in a pair of [cossies]. That's what I'm going after.''

While his hit-out yesterday whet his appetite for the Brazilian's benchmark it also reacquainted Magnussen with the ''hurt'' all competitive swimmers, regardless of status, endure during a race. ''It was pretty tough going,'' he said with a grin. ''We've had a big block of training and I didn't really rest up for this. It definitely hurt a little bit more than the last time I raced … I know it looks like a splash and dash when we're sprinting, but it doesn't feel like that when we're in there.''