Australian Missile Crisis: Can US Freestyle Swimmer Nathan Adrian Catch Oz’s James Magnussen?

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Speed attracts nicknames. In the 90s, when Alexander Popov was the fastest swimmer in the world, he was introduced before races by his boxing-like moniker, The Russian Rocket. And so it goes with the man who has the fastest qualifying time heading into Wednesday night’s 100 meter freestyle in London, Australia’s James “The Missile” Magnussen. The man with the second fastest qualifying time? That honor goes to Team USA’s Nathan Adrian, who is looking to overcome his completely non-intimidating nickname, Bok Choi (allegedly given to him by some female teammates due to his Asian heritage) to become the next great American sprinter.

Magnussen smoked his heat by almost a full second in the 100 meter semi-final, reassuring himself and his fans that the drop-off he experienced in the 4 x 100m freestyle relay (where Australia didn’t even medal) was only a blip in an otherwise dominant swimming year. Magnussen is 6’5″, 200 pounds and has the build of an NFL wide receiver. He might even have the attitude to go along with it, saying the following to reporters after winning the 100 meters at the 2012 Australian Championships. “I feel pretty confident after that swim,” Magnussen said. “I’m going to be doing everything within my power to break that world record, because I do want to be considered the fastest man in history.” Does he have any training secrets to help him get there? Possibly. He says protein shakes are his favorite drink and cereal is his favorite food.

Standing in Magnussen’s way will likely be the 6’7″ 225-pound American, Nathan Adrian. Adrian has been swimming since he was five years old and is addicted to speed both in and out of the pool, listing jet skiing and riding a dirt bike as his other favorite sports. In the swimming community, he’s fairly famous for beating Michael Phelps at the Indianapolis Grand Prix with his butt cheeks showing because his swimsuit tore on the starting blocks. Ideally, he won’t have to moon Magnussen on his way to victory on Wednesday night.

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