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Hoogie Tips James The Cold Gun For Gold

Feb 8, 2012  - Craig Lord

The fastest man ever over 100m free until the short dawn of shiny suits has backed the fastest blue ribband sprinter ever in textile to take the London 2012 crown this summer.

Olympic champion in 2000 and 2004 and world record holder between 2000 and 2008, Pieter Van Den Hoogenband told reporters in London at an awards ceremony that the 48.05 clocked by 2011 world champion James Magnussen indicated that he would be the one to end Australia's 44-year-drought in the Olympic 100m final.

"That is fast ... and in January," Hoogie told the media before adding through laughter. "I hope his coach [Brant Best] knows what he is doing because that is so fast. He is not shaved. He is not rested."

Taking a swipe at suits he wore at his Beijing 2008 swan song before retiring and thus avoiding the height of the shiny era in 2009, Van Den Hoogeband said: "I really love the way he [Magnussen] is swimming. [Cesar] Cielo is more powerful, when you see all the water splash whereas James is more smooth. He is more natural, for me, I like the natural swimmer."

Cielo (BRA), Olympic and world champion over 50m and a man who has proven himself before, in and beyond the suits, holds the 100m world record at 46.91, a time 2009 that many expect to survive Olympic season 2008. Still only 20, Magnussen, who challenged 47.5 in Shanghai last summer, believes he can go sub-47 at some stage before his race days are done.

No date yet on when Magnussen may take up the 200m challenge and lay down the danger he clearly poses for the four-lap crew. Van den Hoogenband won both 100m and 200m at the 2000 Games, the four-lapper ahead of home hope Ian Thorpe, who came back four years on to take gold ahead of Hoogie and Michael Phelps at Athens 2004 a few days after retaining the 400m crown.

Asked about the 200m, Hoogie said of Magnussen: ""He should go for it because his stroke is so natural. It is good for his second 50m." Opponents will shudder at the thought of more progress in a man who already has a killer second 50, the results of deliberate and targeted work on that aspect of his swim with coach Best celebrated in several magnificent  performances from "the Missile" last year. At NSW titles in Sydney from Friday Magnussen will race the 50m, 100, and 200m as he continues to warm-up for Olympic trials mid-March.

The last Australian to win the 100m title also claimed the 200m: Michael Wenden, champion over both distances in Mexico in 1968. The event was held at altitude. At the 200m battle with Don Schollander (USA), the favourites for gold raced neck and neck but the Australian had the closing edge and claimed the big prize in an Olympic record of 1:55.2, 0.6sec ahead of the American. Effort at altitude told: at the end of battle, Wenden then lost consciousness - and was saved from the danger of drowning by his teammate Robert Windle (6th), while Schollander had to be given oxygen. 

Having found himself an overnight household name, Wenden offered the following advice to future champions: “Seek advice about an appropriate business manager and maintain close contact with a psychologist.”

Magnussen has thrived on becoming a household name overnight Down Under and has made comments along the way that suggests he is mindful of taking nothing for granted. Back in 2008, Eamon Sullivan broke the world mark and was also tipped as the one to end the drought. Alain Bernard (FRA) set fire to the rain on that occasion. 

In 2012, the picture won't be fully clear until all trials are done, while Magnussen will be among the first to show his tapered might, at trials next month.

Meanwhile, one of those who might have been up for a relay spot at London 2012 has decided to hang up his bathers. Ashley Callus today announced his retirement from swimming five weeks before Australian Olympic trials. 

In 2000 at a home Sydney Olympics, Callus was a member of the victorious 4x100m free quartet with Michael Klim (world record lead-off), Chris Fydler and Ian Thorpe, the 400m Olympic champion (same session) who was overtaken by Gary Hall Jr on the way out but good for gold on the way to the wall. 

The timing may look odd but Callus told Aussie reporters: "I’ve been to three Olympics, I have nothing more to prove to myself. The last thing I wanted to do at the age of 33 then is go (to trials) and make up the numbers. The fourth Olympics might be history making but at the end of the day if you had said to me when I was 17 years of age that you’d swim at four Commonwealth Games, win medals, three Olympics and win one gold medal and a bronze, and be very competitive in your events, I would have said you’re kidding."

In other news emanating from the Netherlands, Eindhoven may take on the 2012 European Championships at the 11th hour: according to Flemish newspapers, organizers of the 2012 LEN long-course showcase in Antwerp are facing a euros 300,000 shortfall in their budget. The Netherlands has already adopted the diving part of the event.