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Letters of intent bond relay team

8 August 2016

SWIMMING: Australia’s men’s relay sprinters may not have quite carried out their instructions to the letter but it was letters from former Olympians that helped them bounce back from the disappointment of a barren London Olympics to claim a hard-fought bronze medal in Rio.

The team of Cameron McEvoy, James Magnussen, Kyle Chalmers and James Roberts finished third in the 100m freestyle relay behind the powerful US and French teams in one of the strongest and most open races of the Games.

Magnussen, who was at the centre of the hoopla in London, when the team went in as hot favourites but came home without a medal in a display not helped by a questionable culture, summed it up best.

“It has been a completely different preparation and expectation. There were no weapons of mass anything, no missiles or rockets or any of the other paraphernalia,” he said.

Magnussen, who along with Roberts has fought back from surgery over the past year, said: “I’m probably six months away from being anywhere near my best.

“But the moment I was named on that team I was determined to do my best and do justice to the team.”

Magnussen, McEvoy and Roberts were all part of the London disappointment, and it was letters of inspiration and encouragement from former Olympians that were instrumental in changing the team ethic.

The letters were delivered to all Australian swimmers at their pre-Olympic camp in Aubern, Alabama.

Magnussen received a note from 1960 Olympic medallist John Devitt; McEvoy from 1984 silver medallist and Mean Machine member Mark Stockwell; and lead swimmer Roberts from Michael Klim, who also swam first leg for the victorious Sydney 2000 team.

Kyle Chalmers, 18, received a letter from Ian Thorpe, one of the greatest swimmers of all time, who was just a year younger when he burst onto the Olympic scene in Sydney.

The idea was to emphasise the great traditions of Australian Olympians, to encourage a respect for those who have gone before them and those alongside them now.

Whatever the specifics, they seemed to do the trick.

Chalmers said: “It was very exciting to get a bronze. We have really come together as a team.

“It’s pretty hard swimming at 12 o’clock at night. This was my first experience of that.”

McEvoy said the bar was set high by the victorious women’s spring team on opening night.

“The tone they set for the team was so fresh, so exciting, so new that it was easy to go in there tonight.”

Roberts brought up the rear of the field after the first leg before Chalmers flew to take the Aussies up to second at the halfway mark.

Magnussen slipped back to fourth before McEvoy swam over the Russians to claim a prized bronze.

Roberts said: ”I gave it everything I could tonight. I don’t think I’ve ever hurt that much after that race. Sometimes times don’t reflect how hard it actually hurts so, pretty happy all round.”

Doug Conway

olympics.com.au

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