James Magnussen is confident he an become the first Australian man to win the 100m freestyle at a world championships in Shanghai on Thursday night.
Magnussen, 20, cemented his status as the man to beat after clocking 47.90 seconds in Wednesday night’s semi-finals to qualify well ahead of a class field including American Nathan Adrian (48.05), Canada’s Brent Hayden (48.30) and reigning champion Cesar Cielo (48.34) of Brazil.
No Australian male has won the 100m freestyle since the world championships were first held in 1973, while the last Australian Olympic champion in the event was Michael Wenden in 1968.
And Magnussen is confident he can make history.
“I wasn’t as confident as I probably should have been going into (last night) but, after another sub 48, I’m feeling pretty good about myself and feeling like I can go a bit faster again,” said
Magnussen put the sprint world on notice with his stunning 47.49 swim in Australia’s 4x100m freestyle relay win, a performance that has even reigning world champion Cielo doubting if he can do anything to stop him.
The Port Macquarie-born swimmer said he would be honoured to become the first Australian to achieve the feat and believed it would be a welcome boost for Australia’s male swimmers.
“We’ve copped a bit of flack over the years, while our distance swimmers have been winning medals and we’ve been struggling,” he said.
A host of Australians will be in finals action on Thursday night, with 19-year-old Kenneth To a surprise qualifier for the 200m individual medley final, where he will take on American greats
Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
Reining champion Jess Schipper and Stephanie Rice reached the 200m butterfly final while Emily Seebohm snuck into the 50m backstroke decider.
Alicia Coutts, who has already won two silver medals in Shanghai, returns to the pool on Thursday morning in the heats of the women’s 100m freestyle.