By Laine Clark
BRISBANE, April 7 AAP – One strangely donned a custom “golden cloak” to send a message to his nemesis.
The other admitted he had become preoccupied with breaking the world record.
But it was the mindset of his other world champion – Cate Campbell – that caught Australian head coach Jacco Verhaeren’s eye at the national swimming titles in Brisbane.
Eyebrows were raised when the usually low key Christian Sprenger looked more like Rocky than a champion breaststroker after unveiling a custom gold-tinged hooded robe pool-side at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games trials.
He admitted he wanted to “put on a show” and it quickly became clear who it was for after talking up his rivalry with Cameron van der Burgh.
Then there was 100m freestyle champion James Magnussen.
The humble image he tried to project post-London Olympic meltdown was momentarily ditched when a shattered Magnussen reflected on being relegated to 100m freestyle silver by upstart Cameron McEvoy.
A candid Magnussen revealed he childishly strutted around the team hotel claiming he would break the 100m world record ahead of the Friday night final, telling anyone who would listen that “this is the day”.
It will now rival his infamous “brace yourselves” warning to rivals ahead of his ill-fated 2012 Olympic campaign.
However, Verhaeren could not hear alarm bells – only the wise words of world 100m freestyle champion Campbell.
“Cate said it right when she said ‘I am not chasing a world record, I am chasing perfection’ (at the national titles) – I believe they can all learn from that,” he said.
Verhaeren did not believe he had to worry about Sprenger’s head space ahead of what seemed an inevitable showdown with Olympic champion van der Burgh in Scotland.
“I wouldn’t say he’s focused on Cam. If he is talking about a (breaststroke) world record then Cameron’s name will come along,” he said.
Verhaeren also did not seem concerned by Magnussen’s stunning omission that he had become blindsided by Brazilian Cesar Cielo’s world mark of 46.91.
However, he said he would work with Magnussen and his coach Brant Best to ensure future distractions were avoided.
“(But) we’re never going to come between the coach and the athlete, because I really think that’s a unit we shouldn’t touch,” he said.
If anyone can understand Magnussen’s predicament it is Verhaeren – he groomed Dutch legend and triple Olympic freestyle champion Pieter van den Hoogenband.
But asked if Magnussen could solve the problem by focusing on breaking his 100m PB – just 0.2 of a second off the world mark – Verhaeren said: “Not just James but every swimmer should aim for a perfect execution of the race.
“That is more helpful than thinking about times, winning gold, things like that.”