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Big guns get ready to roll in epic 4x100m freestyle final

James Magnussen. Photo: Adam Pretty►MORE: Olympics news
Nanjing Night Net

The fastest male swimmers on the planet are set to square off in an epic final of the 4x100m relay, with teams – including Australia – priming their heavy artillery for the decider.

With James Magnussen leading off in his long-awaited return to the Olympic pool, the Australians finished second in their heat (3:12.65) to the USA (3:12.38) and third overall to the Russians (3:12.04), who will have lane four in the final.

Unlike the women’s version, where Australia’s virtually unbeatable women were in a race of their own, this one is wide open and could be one of the races of the Olympic meet at the Rio pool.

Almost all of the biggest sprint guns sat out the heats and Australia can now call on 100m freestyle favourite Cameron McEvoy, who will join Magnussen, Kyle Chalmers and James Roberts at the expense of Matt Abood.

McEvoy could even lead off the swim and try and set up a lead for his team, which has been boosted by the blistering 47.04 split of 18-year-old Chalmers, which was the fastest of any swimmer in the afternoon heats.

Magnussen knows he must go considerably faster than the 48.85 he threw down to get things moving but said he has no doubt he can go lower.

“It was alright. It’s good to get that out of the way and settle into my stroke a bit. It felt good. It felt a bit rusty but definitely some good signs. I faded a bit towards the end but that can happen first swim of the meet,” Magnussen said.

Chalmers was the standout and if he can swim like that, represents a massive medal chance in the individual 100m later in the meet. For now, he said he must try to relax and deliver an even quicker time in the final of his first Games.

“It was a good morning swim. I’m happy with that. I had to control myself on the way out. It was fairly loud and my first Olympic Games, it was pretty daunting but very exciting.

“I had a look into the crowd and looked for my parents but I couldn’t pick them out,” Chalmers said.

“I executed the race I wanted to and should go a bit faster tonight.”

And while the presence of McEvoy should rightly embolden the Australians and hopeful supporters, all of the leading teams have some thoroughbreds still in the stable.

The Americans will wheel out no less than 18-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Phelps and defending Olympic 100m champion Nathan Adrian, while Russia can add their top-shelf sprinter Vladimir Morosov.France, the world champions in this event, have Florent Manaudou ready to unleash.

Chalmers’ time and the inclusion of McEvoy gives the Australians every chance but Magnussen and Roberts must swim out of their skin. Even then, there could barely be a stroke in it across four of the leading contenders.

Earlier, world backstroke champions Emily Seebohm and Mitch Larkin progressed safely to the semi-finals of their respective 100m races, while there was heartbreak for first-time Olympian Georgia Bohl, who failed to make it past her 100m breaststroke heat, although Taylor McKeown advanced safely.

[View the story “FairfaxRegional/rio-games-2016-aussies-in-focus” on Storify]

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