When the mind is willing but the body does not share the same conviction, once-great athletes face the reality that the clock has no mercy when it comes to ticking.
James Magnussen became painfully aware of that reality by failing to qualify for a spot in the 100m freestyle in the upcoming Rio Olympics. He finished fourth in the finals by well over a second when 21-year-old Cameron McEvoy turned in a 47.04 that beat the old record set by Eamon Sullivan in 2008 when Sullivan was wearing one of the now-banned full-body “supersuits.”
Magnussen, silver medalist in the 2012 London Olympics and two-time world champion from 2011 and 2013, is trying to return to form after shoulder surgery. For a swimmer, a balky shoulder is possibly the worst possible impediment to swimming fast, with perhaps only cricket bowlers and baseball pitchers relying on the complex joint more heavily.
The second individual spot in the 100m went to Adelaide’s 17-year-old Kyle Chalmers. He was almost a second behind McEvoy.
McEvoy’s time of 47.04 was six-one hundredths better than Magnussen’s textile suit record established at the 2012 Olympic trials. Swimming records have been skewed by the temporary use of full-body neoprene suits that supplied drastic reductions in resistance and left purists wondering when swimmers would resort to mechanical, electronic or internal combustion propulsion systems.