London Eye: Australia's Missile James Magnussen is on target to make a record splash at Games

 

They like a nickname Down Under – there is a federal law that states no team can depart Australian shores without having "roos" attached to their name – but when it comes to James Magnussen, it's not so much a moniker as a statement of intent.

Meet The Missile, the anointed successor to the Thorpedo, the man who has to stop the Baltimore Bullet (yes, the Americans can do it too) and his US team-mates from taking all the attention away from Australia in the London Aquatics Centre this summer. Forget Michael Phelps and Co, Magnussen is coming to London not only to win gold but to swim faster than any man ever has.

Yesterday, he stood on the south bank of the Thames next to Tower Bridge at the start of a flying visit to the capital and was asked, by an Australian TV man, is this a city you are ready to conquer?

"I'd like to think so," said Magnussen. "I'm sure there are others with similar aspirations but I'll do the best I can to conquer the pool. I've heard it's pretty quick. I can't wait to get a chance to race in it and, hopefully, break the world record."

World records in the pool have almost dried up over the two years since hi-tech suits were banned. Only two new marks have since been set and it was expected that the times recorded in the sprint events in particular, like Magnussen's 100m freestyle, would stand for years. Then along came The Missile from Port Macquarie in New South Wales. Last year he won World Championship gold, turning in fifth and storming down the last length – the tag comes from his ability to produce such devastating late bursts of speed.

Earlier this month he won the 100m and the 50m at the Australian trials to earn his Olympic place, winning the first in the fastest time ever in a textile suit and 0.2sec outside the Brazilian Cesar Cielo's world record.

Magnussen was disappointed not to have broken it despite, in the words of his coach Brant Best, being "crook". Magnussen had a chest infection during the trials –athletes can't take cough medicine because it contains banned substances.

"I was under the weather in the trials," said Magnussen. "I didn't want people to know because I didn't want them to think that I had any weaknesses. But if I can stay fit and healthy and gain 0.2sec, I'm on my way to Olympic gold and a world record."

Best, who has accompanied his charge on a trip with VisitBritain to see the Olympic Park and take in some sights – and get to a Premier League game if they can find tickets (Magnussen is a Liverpool fan), is sure the 20-year-old's time is only going one way.

"I have no doubt he can go quicker," said Best. "He seems to love the pressure, the more he's under the better he gets. He doesn't see it as a burden."

And Magnussen is under pressure to bring gold back home. There are fears in Australia that this will be their worst Games in the pool since 1996, when they won two golds. Magnussen is their sole gold favourite in a young team. Beyond swimming, Australia are sending their smallest Olympic team since 1992 – a lesson for London, perhaps, as the 2000 Sydney Olympics did not lead to a rise in sporting participation, and Australia have since slipped down the medal table – and are banking heavily on a handful of stellar names delivering. A nation expects from Magnussen.

"It's pretty exciting," he admitted. "I feel it's something I can revel in, like that pressure and expectation leaves me no choice but to perform well."

He will not get to swim in the Olympic pool on this visit – "I'll just strip down to the swimmers and walk up and down the side of the pool and try and get a feel for it" – but for a first-time Olympian, the need to see the venue, the village, and distance between them, can play an important part in easing what can be an overwhelming experience come Games time. "It's about familiarity," said Best. "It makes it not such a mental strain when he gets here."

Not that coach or swimmer appears overly concerned about Magnussen dealing with what is coming. Others are most definitely worried about him. Noises out of the US and France, one of the world's sprinting powerhouses, signal he has made a deep impression.

"It's pretty flattering," said Magnussen. "There's probably a few mind games going on too –I'm sure that they're not as scared of me as they say they are."

The last word belongs to Best."He's put the cat among the pigeons," he grinned, imagining perhaps what might happen when he puts a primed Missile in the Olympic pool in four months' time.

Olympic news you may have missed...

Team GB's uniform may not have been universally welcomed, but Australia have responded much more positively (as is their wont) to their kit launch. It looks as you would expect, all green and what they call gold, what we call orange, although in some cases there is not much of it. "It's like a little bikini," said Sally Pearson, their world champion hurdler. "In a way it still feels like your skin, so it's like you're naked."

While the Aussies stripped off, the beach volleyballers have been given the option of togging up. The International Volleyball Federation decided that women can wear shorts and sleeved tops at the Games instead of bikinis, a damning comment on a British summer.

What's coming up...

On Wednesday the cycling world track championships get under way in Melbourne, with all Britain's big names in action. At stake are not only world titles but also Olympic places.

Who's up?

Lizzie Armitstead The British rider won the first women's Gent-Wevelgem road race to further her good start to 2012.

Achmat Hassien The South African Paralympian swimmer, who last year told The Independent the incredible story of how he lost his leg to a shark attack, won six golds and set two records at his national championships.

Who's down?

David Millar The Scot would be a high-profile beneficiary of the British ban on dopers being overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport next month, but he may not be fit after dislocating his collarbone in Belgium last week.

US footballers A goalkeeping blunder in the fifth minute of injury time meant the US were held to a 3-3 draw by El Salvador to end their efforts to qualify for the Olympics.

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
life
Sport
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
football
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
News
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn