MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Cameron McEvoy will head to the Rio Games brimful of confidence after storming to the Australian 100 metres freestyle title at the Olympic trials on Monday but former world champion James Magnussen failed to book his ticket for the blue riband event.
McEvoy, runner-up at the world championships in Kazan last year, was lightning out of the blocks and posted a time of 47.04 seconds, the fastest recorded since synthetic suits were banned at the end of 2009.
The swim also eclipsed compatriot Eamon Sullivan’s mark of 47.05 seconds at the Beijing Games in 2008, a then-world record only bettered by Alain Bernard (46.94) and current holder Cesar Cielo (46.91) in synthetic suits the following year.
Australian long-distance swimming great Grant Hackett described 21-year-old McEvoy’s swim as “unequivocally the greatest” seen in the event.
McEvoy said he had taken good words of advice leading into the meeting.
“A lot of the best swimmers past and present get up behind the blocks and just put up the curtains either side of the lanes and I did that and I guess it paid off,” he said in a pool-side interview.
“(Rio‘s) going to be a different experience but I’ve just got to treat it like any other competition.”
Junior world champion and runner-up Kyle Chalmers was nearly a second behind McEvoy but booked the second Olympic berth in the individual event.
The impressive 17-year-old upstaged James Roberts and fourth-placed Magnussen, who was crestfallen after failing to qualify in his favourite event on his 25th birthday.
A hot favourite to win gold at the last Olympics, Magnussen was pipped by American Nathan Adrian for the London gold and spent much of the intervening years speaking of redemption at Rio.
But he missed last year’s world championships to have major shoulder surgery and suggested he had lost his race to be fit for the trials.
“Tough race, I’d done everything I could physically to get back in shape,” said Magnussen who is nicknamed “The Missile”.
“Obviously pretty shattered, but I’ll just go home, soak that in and get ready for the 50 (metres freestyle) again tomorrow.”
Former world champion Cate Campbell flirted with world record time during the women’s 100m freestyle semi-finals but eased off in the closing stages to clock 52.41 seconds, still comfortably the year’s fastest.
Her younger sister and top rival Bronte, who snatched her world title at Kazan last year, also moved safely through to Tuesday’s final but Alicia Coutts failed to make it in a major surprise.
World champion Mitch Larkin qualified fastest for the men’s 200 metres backstroke final, blitzing his rivals with a time of 1:54.68.
Reporting by Ian Ransom,; Editing by Ed Osmond