SYDNEY (Reuters) – A war of words has broken out between two of Australia’s fastest swimmers with dual world 100 meters freestyle champion James Magnussen standing by criticism of the team’s relay tactics at the Budapest world championships.
The 2011 and 2013 world champion, nicknamed ‘The Missile’, chose to miss the ongoing world titles in Budapest to continue rehabilitation on 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, had said on Saturday he was mystified as to why the relay teams were not leading off with their fastest swimmers in Budapest.
Magnussen had questioned Australia’s tactics after Jack Cartwright led off for the men’s 4×100 freestyle 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 100 freestyle world record holder and Rio relay gold medalist Cate Campbell and former 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,” Magnussen told Fox Sports on Sunday. “People in the swimming world know that.”
It is the second time that Magnussen has publicly questioned the tactics after he said it had backfired for his 4x100m team at the Rio Games, where they had to fight 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.
“To say that I’m not a part of the team this year because I’m out with injury is, I think, a little disrespectful in itself.”
Magnussen 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 meeting.
“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.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Ian Ransom/Sudipto Ganguly)