Cameron McEvoy has zoomed into gold medal calculations for the 100-metres freestyle at the Rio Olympics with the third fastest time in history at the Australian Championships in Adelaide.
The 21-year-old physics student overpowered a strong field to win the sprint late Monday in a new Commonwealth and Australian record of 47.04 seconds in this year’s fastest time in the event.
It placed McEvoy a tantalising 0.13secs off Brazilian Cesar Cielo’s 2009 world record of 46.91secs, making him nominally the man to beat in Brazil.
Only Cielo and Frenchman Alain Bernard (46.94) have registered quicker times than McEvoy’s effort, but significantly both were set in the controversial super-suit era.
The performance-enhancing, non-textile swimsuits were subsequently banned by world swimming’s governing body FINA after 43 world records fell at the 2009 Rome world championships.
McEvoy, surprised by how close he came to lowering the world record, said he would be a marked man in the lead-up to the Olympics in August.
“If I had known I was that close (to the world record), then there might have been something else in me that would have pushed me a bit further,” he said.
“But it’s a 0.52secs PB (personal best) off the PB I did in Perth (Aquatic Super Series in January). It’s unbelievable.
“It puts me into a good position come Rio, but in saying that there is a history of world number ones going in first and not coming out with the gold and the Olympics is notorious for not always producing the best time to win it.”
McEvoy, the silver medallist in the sprint at last year’s Kazan world championships, said his rivals would be fired up to beat him at Rio.
“I’m very much aware of that and I’m very much aware that everyone else in the world will be sitting on their couch watching this race and firing them up getting ready for training at 5am just to beat me,” he said.
“So although it’s good, I can’t sit back and relax and think that that’s going to come without any more effort it Rio — I have a lot to do.”
Rising star Kyle Chalmers, 17, will join McEvoy in Rio in the 100m freestyle after his second place in 48.03secs, but not London Olympics silver medallist James Magnussen, who finished fourth in 48.68secs.
It was a shattered Magnussen, who was fighting back from a shoulder injury in his bid to go one better after being pipped by one-hundredths of a second for gold in the event at the London Olympics in 2012.
“I guess that’s just where I’m at, I’ve done everything physically to get back to this point, there’s nothing else I could have done,” Magnussen said.
“I’ve literally done every extra there is. I left it all out there, there’s not much more I could do.”
Magnussen will be vying for a place in Australia’s 4x100m freestyle relay team in Rio.