Daily Life: Agony for Magnussen: Aussie beaten to gold by narrowest of margins

It's a pretty tough time to learn that you are human. Those words from his coach Brant Best were resonating in the ears of James Magnussen as he realised his dream was over.

We all thought he was unbeatable heading into London in the 100m freestyle. We wavered after the 4 x 100m freestyle relay failure, but then jumped back aboard the Missile after an emphatic semi-final performance. Superman was back. But on Wednesday night, he felt like merely a mortal, when he suffered the most painful of losses. The most heartbreaking of losses, the most narrow of losses.

Just 0.01s, less time than it takes to say it, less time than it takes to think it, but enough time for American Nathan Adrian to now be known as an Olympic champion, and Magnussen to be an Olympic silver medallist.

Everyone predicted it may be the race of the Olympics, but most of Australia thought the reason for that would be a gold medal and perhaps a world record. We ended up with neither, only sympathy for the 21-year-old and disappointment. Our disappointment however is nothing compared to what his is, and will go through, not only tonight, tomorrow and when he returns to Australia, but for the next four years until he gets a chance for some redemption. It's along time wait as a result of the smallest of times.

"That hurts," Magnussen said, summing it up perfectly, as he struggled with his emotions. "I did my best tonight and it wasn't quite good enough. To lose by that amount stings, but I've had a lot of great support over the last few days from everyone back in Australia.

"It's been a tough Olympics. They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger so hopefully I will come out of this a better swimmer, but most of all a better person."

Magnussen was hoping to become just the fourth Australian to win the men's 100m freestyle, and the first since Mike Wenden did it in 1968 in Mexico. And with 25m to swim he looked to have the upper hand over Adrian. But the American fought back and as both swimmers lunged at the wall, it was anyone's guess.

Everyone turned to the scoreboard and the number two came up alongside Magnussen's name. Victory was Adrian's in 47.52s. Magnussen registered 47.53s. Canada's Brent Hayden was third in 47.80s. But nobody apart from him and the Canadians noticed.

Magnussen was for the second time in three days, stunned, and shattered.

"I think I got a pretty good touch. Maybe thanks to a good touch the closeness of the race was a little bit flattering," he said. "When you lose by that much you look back and think could I have done better, but now I've got no regrets."

Asked if he thought he had won, Magnussen said: "I knew that Nathan Adrian was sticking with me and it was going to come down to that touch but I thought I got a pretty good touch.

"It all [the race] seems like a blur. So much is going on in your mind going into it [the race]. I don't know if you can notice my eyes are pretty bloodshot, I haven't had a great deal of sleep but you know I did my best and it wasn't as quick as trials [47.10s] but it's a different ball game here.

"You know I guess having such a successful young career I just felt pretty much bulletproof coming into this Olympics and it's very humbling and I have a lot more respect for guys like Michael Phelps who can come out at Olympics and back up under that pressure. And you know it's a bit of a reality check there.

"As my coach said earlier in the week, it's pretty a tough time to learn that you are human. I really tried to pick myself up after those first few days. I gave it everything for myself and for the people of Port Macquarie in Australia."

Magnussen has always been full of confidence in his approach to his racing, and speaks his mind. When things haven't gone well this week critics have slammed that attitude. He hasn't shied away from it though as that is who he is. Asked about lessons learned this week he spoke of the pressure.

"I guess the hardest thing for me is, going to major meets, I have always been sick or something has gone wrong and I felt like the pressure was always off a little bit. But coming into this Olympics I had the perfect preparation and I was so confident that I was going to swim really fast that I think I put too much pressure on myself. I will learn from that. I've still got a couple of races left this week and I have to keep my chin up now."

The story Daily Life: Agony for Magnussen: Aussie beaten to gold by narrowest of margins first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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