James Magnussen shot to international fame in 2011 when he won the 100m freestyle at the World Championships in Shanghai. At 20 years of age, Magnussen won the race in 47.63 seconds and in doing so became the first Australian man to be crowned the 100m freestyle world champion. Earlier in the Championships, Magnussen had announced himself as one to watch when he led the Australian 4 x 100m freestyle relay team to gold.
The swimmer from Port Macquarie who moved to Sydney to train under Brant Best in 2010 contested the 50m and 100m freestyle at the 2012 Olympic selection trials, winning every heat, semi-final and final and setting two new personal best times along the way. His time of 47.10 in the 100m was the fourth fastest in history and the fastest in a textile suit, falling just shy of the 46.91s time set by Brazilian Cesar Cielo in the supersuit era.
‘The Missile's' debut Olympic event did not got to plan as Australia finished 4th in the 4 x 100m freestyle, an event Australia was hotly tipped to win a medal in as reigning World Champions. The team of Magnussen, Matt Targett, Eamon Sullivan and James Roberts were third at the final change but were not able to hold their position as France took the gold.
Looking to improve in the 100m freestyle, Magnussen qualified fastest for the final and looked set for redemption. He turned a the halfway point in 5th position and stormed home but was unable to overcome Nathan Adrian of the USA who beat the Missile by the barest of margins - 0.01 seconds – to see the Australian win silver.