His epic 47.10 remains one of the fastest times in swimming history, but dual 100m freestyle world champion James Magnussen is adamant his best is yet to come.
Speaking exclusively for the hugely popular Spartan Sports Talk podcast series on iTunes, Magnussen said his return to the pool last month after an extended break had filled him full of confidence for this next phase of his career.
It comes 18 months after shoulder surgery put the brakes on The Missile and his Rio Olympic campaign.
“I believe the way I’m feeling now I can swim faster,” Magnussen told Spartan Sports Talk host Paul Cochrane.
“Jumping back in the water on the second of January I instantly knew there was a stability and strength that it didn’t have in the previous 18 months.”
“I’m a lot stronger and now I’m able to do things from a fitness point of view that I didn’t necessarily think were important or do as well back then. So I’m ticking boxes now that I didn’t tick back then.”
Magnussen finished fourth at last year’s Australian Championships and scraped into the Olympic team, snaring a berth on the 4 x 100m relay team which went on to win a bronze medal.
“In Rio it was only 80% … if that. A lot of times in the preparation and even when I raced I was swimming on one arm sometimes,” he said.
“I never felt like I was properly back. I was always in some kind of pain. There was never a lap where I felt normal.”
“Now my body feels right and I’ve got all those one-percenters working for me I honestly believe I can go quicker.”
Magnussen returned to the pool last month after taking leave from the water to re-assess his future goals.
This year he will take leave from national team duties and swim the lucrative European circuit and World Cup short-course meets, with a view to peaking at the Commonwealth Games selection trials in 12 months time. It sets up a showdown with newly-crowned Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers and the current fastest man in the world Cameron McEvoy.
“I think for me I needed to have that five months off after the Olympics from a physical and mental perspective,” he said.
“The benchmark hasn’t moved. I still know if I’m at my best I can still be at the top of the world sprinting game. It’s a bit of a motivator but also quite frustrating.”
“I honestly think coming back from this Rio games I feel as good in the water as I did when I was swimming those times.”
In this episode of Spartan Sports Talk, Magnussen expresses concern about some of the issues being faced outside of the pool by retired swimmers and opens up about his own personal battles following the London Olympics.
The highly-fancied Australian team failed to win a medal and under intense scrutiny Magnussen narrowly missed out on the individual gold medal in the 100m freestyle.
Magnussen concedes he can’t be sure if the Australian public even wanted him to win.
“I certainly don’t know what goes through people’s head who are in depression or have mental health problems or things like that but I guess the closest I’ve ever come to any sort of depression was post London when I was almost scared to go out of the house when I came back to Australia because I was really worried that people were disappointed in me or upset with me,” Magnussen revealed.
“I really did feel after London like I was less of a person for not having won that gold medal and it’s taken me some time to realise that that is not a defining characteristic for your life.”
“I don’t believe it’s life defining. As we see now increasingly with past swimmers struggling post careers regardless of how many gold medals they’ve got I really think it’s important to put things in perspective when it comes to your career and what it means for you outside of the pool.”
“Things happen but that’s sport and it was probably a really tough thing for me to handle at the time and for a couple of years after but having been to another Olympics, having experienced it, having a deeper understanding of what the Olympics is and what it means I think that’s definitely helped me to deal with it.”
“Once I learnt to deal with that at 20 years of age it was always like nothing could affect me after that.”
Magnussen said issues faced by the Australian swimming team at the London Olympics we magnified by social media and agrees despite the best attempts to block it out, public criticism levelled at the squad had a considerable impact on himself and his peers.
He also opens up about the post-London Stilnox drama and the fallout that followed.
“I’m a little bit angry looking back on it now that the blame was passed from the senior members of the team to myself because I had a bigger profile,” he said.
Episode 5 of Spartan Sports Talk with James Magnussen is a compelling insight into the thoughts of one of the greatest sprinters in swimming history.
To listen to the full episode on iTunes and to subscribe to Spartan Sports Talk CLICK HERE