Meet James Magnussen. He’s an Australian swimmer competing in his first Olympic Games. He’s the defending world champion in the 100m freestyle and considered to be the poster boy in Australian swimming during these London Games.
Basically, Magnussen is like the 2004 version of Michael Phelps, when the young Baltimore-native was just coming on to the international swimming scene.
Why care about Magnussen? Mainly because he was the subject of the press conference I had to log this morning. But also because Aussies are good in swimming and in the past, they have been the main rivals of the U.S. in the pool. If there is anyone to look out for during these games, it’s this kid.
Need more proof? Magnussen received the majority of the questions during this morning’s presser, which featured three other Aussie swimming stars.
Press conferences are a fascinating spectacle. In its worst ways, the subject is interrogated by a massive group of journalists, all looking for a different angle to the story. On the world stage like the Olympics, you get reporters that don’t even speak your language, thus the question gets lost in translation.
At its best, they are a way for the subject to get his or her message out loud and clear and ensure that everyone is on the same page. In its simplest form, press conferences provide the soundbite you need for that story you need to file ASAP. They often become an event in itself.
What I liked about Magnussen is that he acted like himself. Too many times, you’ll see an athlete be too rigid or give off a generic answer. But Magnussen gave truthful answers. Granted, he didn’t give too much away that was ground-breaking. But he was far from generic.
Like when a Brazilian reporter asked this question: “James, you are the best in the 100m free but in Brazil there’s a swimmer called Cesar Cielo. He holds both records in 50 and 100m. Is Cesar Cielo your biggest rival? Are you afraid about Cielo?”
You got to love how direct her question was. I’m not sure if that’s just how they ask questions in Brazil or if she just didn’t know enough English to ask that in a politically correct way. Nonetheless, Magnussen chuckled and provided this response:
“No, I’m not afraid of Cielo. Look, I’m aware he’s one of my main competitors. In case you didn’t notice, there’s also a guy, James Roberts from Australia. He’s also faster than Cesar, so. I’ve also got him to worry about. I think in this stage where I’m at with my preparations and my times at the moment, the biggest competitor this week for me will be myself and my headspace”
His best answer came at the end, when he was asked about the epic 4x100m freestyle relay that the United States just edged France in during the Beijing Olympics four years earlier.
“I love that race, one of my favorite Olympic moments,” Magnussen said. “The anchor leg by Jason Lezak is something I could only dream to emulate. Such an exciting moment I think in Olympic sport and such a monumental moment in swimmming.
“It’s definitely a moment that I’ll always remember forever. If we, as a team, could emulate that it would be amazing but I feel this team is in a position to forge our own path.”
We shall see, James Magnussen. The swimming competition starts in six days.