Magnussen primed for ‘biggest competition yet’
COULD this be the final launch of the Missile?
James Magnussen already has a gold medal from these Games after helping Australia's sprint relay to a win.
But he has just one chance for an individual swim - a 50m sprint in what could be a literal 20secs lap of honour in front of his home crowd.
After the journey he has had since a controversial maiden Olympic campaign, Magnussen is calling the Gold Coast Games "as big a competition as I've ever had".
Magnussen has experienced it all in the past six years - from the Stilnox drug scandal and losing Olympic gold when favourite, to shoulder surgery that rocked him physically and mentally.
One of Australia's most polarising athletes hits the water in the heats of the 50m freestyle this morning and it could yet be his last high-profile appearance.
"This is everything I've worked for, for the last two years, so for me, this is as big a competition as I've ever had because of the work I've put in and the work that I know everyone around me has put into this," Magnussen said of his battle back from shoulder surgery.
"I'll have friends and family who will finally get a chance to watch me swim that never have before, so I'm really excited and as motivated as I've been since London, I'd say."
Kyle Chalmers may have denied he is the "alpha male" of the swim team but Magnussen has never had any problem being in the spotlight.
But he is not the same brash personality he was leading into the London Olympics in 2012.
While his Olympic loss hurt, he still claimed individual silver and bounced back the following year to claim a second world title.
But shoulder surgery in 2015 would come to test Magnussen like nothing before.
"It's a much bigger hurdle than you could ever tell someone going into it," Magnussen said of the invasive procedure to his subscapular region.
"When I first got back to training I had my left arm tied to my body with a seatbelt, doing kick.
"Probably the biggest thing is it really knocks your confidence.
"One moment you're a young, fit, healthy guy and feeling very confident in yourself, to then having one arm the size of a toothpick.
"It just knocks your confidence and takes that edge off the ego you need for a sprint freestyler.
"That's been probably the hardest thing to regain."
Most would argue ego has never been a problem for Magnussen.
It's a necessary ingredient for a world-class sprinter, but Magnussen admits he "had it in spades".
And stepping out of the spotlight was difficult.
"From being in the spotlight and the 'it' swimmer, to taking a back seat and just swimming a relay at the (Rio) Olympics and seeing other people's names up in lights is definitely a humbling experience," he said.
"But I've remained confident in myself and my own abilities throughout.
"I might not express that as outwardly as I did in the past but that same belief has always been there and will continue to be, even after swimming in whatever else I choose to do in life."