Spat erupts on Australia relay tactics

SYDNEY • A war of words has broken out between Australia's fastest swimmers, with two-time world 100m freestyle champion James Magnussen standing by his criticism of the team's relay tactics at the World Championships.

The 2011 and 2013 world champion, nicknamed "The Missile", chose to miss the world event in Budapest to continue rehabilitation for a long-standing shoulder injury in order to be fit for next year's Commonwealth Games in Australia.

The 26-year-old, who has been at loggerheads with Swimming Australia officials for a number of years, said on Saturday he was mystified as to why the relay teams were not leading off with their fastest swimmers in Hungary.

He questioned Australia's tactics after Jack Cartwright led off for the men's 4x100m free team, with Cameron McEvoy, who has the fastest time by an Australian this year, in the third spot.

The team's head coach, Jacco Verhaeren, shot back later on Saturday, saying Magnussen should keep his advice to himself until he is back in the Australian team.

The Dutchman was supported by former women's 100m free world record holder and Rio relay gold medallist Cate Campbell - during commentary duties for Australian broadcaster Channel Seven - and swimming great Ian Thorpe.

Magnussen, however, said that he stood by his original comments and that he had been in touch with members of the Australian team who felt the same way.

"Nothing I've said was anything but factual," he told Fox Sports yesterday. "People in the swimming world know that."

It is the second time that he has publicly questioned the tactics after he said they had backfired for his 4x100m team at the Rio Games, where they fought back to claim bronze after James Roberts led off.

Magnussen appeared to be particularly annoyed that he was deemed to be not allowed to voice an opinion because he was not currently part of the team.

"I've been a part of this team for the past seven years and I'll be a part of this team again in the future," he added.

He added that Campbell, who had also said he was not part of the team and not privy to conversations in Budapest, had also chosen to skip the meet. Campbell is on a sabbatical this year.

"For Cate to say it's disrespectful if I'm not part of the team... nor is she this year," Magnussen said. "So maybe she's not in the right place to be commenting on that."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2017, with the headline 'Spat erupts on Australia relay tactics'. Print Edition | Subscribe