World champion James Magnussen has epitomised how far Australian swimming has come since the London Games debacle by claiming he wants to be a leader.
Brace yourselves – former Australian swimming bad boy James Magnussen wants to be a team mentor.
After the London Olympic debacle, an ashen-faced Magnussen was paraded in front of the media as part of the “Stilnox Six”.
But a relaxed Magnussen on Monday epitomised just how far Australian swimming had come since the troubled 2012 Games with his revelation ahead of this week’s national titles in Brisbane.
Magnussen is no stranger to bold calls.
He may never live down his 2012 “brace yourselves” pre-London Olympic warning to rivals.
Plenty of lessons were learned in the fallout over Magnussen’s 4x100m freestyle relay team’s now infamous pre-London Games bonding session and Australia’s worst Olympic pool tally in 20 years.
But Magnussen appears to have benefited the most.
A team leadership group vacancy exists after breaststroker Brenton Rickard’s retirement – and Magnussen believed he could fit the bill.
“Leadership is a path I would like to go down,” he said.
“I feel I have a bit of wisdom that I can share with the younger athletes.”
Magnussen went from villain to hero at the 2013 world titles when he claimed the 100m freestyle gold that eluded him by just 0.01 of a second at London.
“I felt like that got a monkey off my back,” he said.
“From then on I felt I did not have anything else to prove to myself or anybody else.
“I could enjoy the sport again.”
But asked if he felt he had lost public support after London, Magnussen said: “I didn’t think winning a silver medal is a reason to lose the public’s adulation.
“It’s not something I spend a lot of time worrying about.
“If they like who I am and how I race, it is all good.”
Australian coach Jacco Verhaeren would not rule out Magnussen (47.10sec PB) nudging Brazilian Cesar Cielo’s 100m freestyle world record at the Commonwealth Games trials starting on Tuesday.
But don’t expect Magnussen to make any predictions.
“In the past…that has brought me unstuck,” he smiled.
Magnussen’s transformation mirrors the change in Australian swimming since London where a “toxic” atmosphere produced just one gold in the pool.
The maligned team bounced back at last year’s world titles in Barcelona to produce three world champions – Magnussen, Cate Campbell (100m freestyle) and Christian Sprenger (100m breaststroke), all of whom will appear in Brisbane.
“I don’t think we deserved the bad rap that we got in London,” Campbell said.
“(But) we have already made great improvements since London.
“The team unity and bonding (in Barcelona) was something I had not felt in a long time.”
The nationals are set to launch budding talents Cameron McEvoy (100m freestyle), Emma McKeon (200m freestyle), Mack Horton (1,500m freestyle) and Brittany Elmslie (100m freestyle).