James Magnussen relishing battles in freestyle races


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The Independent Online

Australia's James Magnussen is relishing the prospect of the battles that lie ahead in the pool at this summer's Olympics - although as far as he is concerned, he is not going to be involved in any “grudge matches” in London.

At what will be his first Games, the 21-year-old is set to fight for gold in the 50m and 100m freestyle races with Brazil's Cesar Cielo, champion over the shorter distance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Cielo is also the world record-holder over both, but Magnussen is the current 100m world champion and earlier this year swam the fastest time in history to be achieved in a textile suit in that event.

It is a spicy-looking rivalry between the pair and Magnussen admits Cielo has been "pretty vocal" on the matter in the build-up to London.

But while he is expecting Cielo's presence to help drive him on at the Games, Magnussen is keen to stress that there is no ill-feeling on his part towards the South American.

"It's good to have someone like Cesar," Magnussen said.

"The way I feel is that the better the field is in London, the bigger the result if I'm able to win it, so I'm really glad to have Cesar there.

"I'm sure he'll be pushing the pace early on in the race, and that is something that I'm able to feed off.

"He is pretty vocal, but I guess having only raced him once at a big meet before, it's not really a rivalry that has come to a head too often.

"It is sort of hard to say what our relationship will be come London, but certainly it is not a grudge match at this point."

Also set to be gunning for a medal in the 100m freestyle is another 21-year-old Australian, James Roberts, who holds the second-fastest textiles time in the event.

Responding to the suggestion that Roberts was his arch-rival, Magnussen - speaking today at the Australian team's pre-Olympic camp in Manchester - said: "I don't know if I would call James that!

"I've been friends with him for a long time and raced with him for a long time. It is sort of hard to get your head around the fact that we are now going to be racing each other for Olympic gold.

"But I think it will be a bonus for both of us to be able to get up there in front of the rest of the world and when the pressure is on, to have someone that you know and are mates with behind the blocks with you.

"Like I said with Cesar, there is certainly no grudge match between James and myself."

An Australian who will not be racing at London 2012 is Ian Thorpe after the five-time Olympic champion failed to qualify.

The great success he has enjoyed over his career has been a great inspiration to Magnussen, who wants to emulate the air of invincibility Thorpe once seemed to carry.

"I grew up as a young kid watching Thorpey and I guess the part of his racing and mentality that I would like to bring to the table is the fact that every time I as a member of the public watched Thorpey race on TV, there was never any doubt in my mind that he was going to win," Magnussen said.

"If people back in Australia could say 'it's James Magnussen's race coming on TV - it's a sure thing', I think that is a pretty special thing.

"It is something Thorpey was able to sustain for a number of years and something I'd like to sustain as well."