Coach backs Missile to re-ignite

The Olympic campaign of world swimming champion James Magnussen has had a crushing blow, but national swim coach Leigh Nugent believes he will bounce back.

The Olympic campaign of world swimming champion James Magnussen has had a crushing blow, but national swim coach Leigh Nugent believes he will bounce back.

The members of the Australian men's 4 x 100 metre freestyle relay team are said to be inconsolable after a surprising defeat at the London 2012 Olympics.

After clocking a scorching qualifying heat, Magnussen, Matthew Targett, Eamon Sullivan and James Roberts missed a podium spot completely.

France took the gold medal (3:09.33), the USA silver (3:10.38) and Russia the bronze (3:11.41).

In what Nugent labelled "disastrous result", Australia came in fourth with a time of 3 minutes 11.63 seconds.

The Australians were behind from the start with a sluggish performance by lead swimmer Magnussen, the 100m world champion.

He hit the wall second in a time of 48.03 seconds, far from his personal best of 47:10.

Magnussen appeared in shock at his own performance.

"I don't know what happened," he said after the race.

"I felt like I was going really well into that race. Obviously that is my first big disappointment at international level so I have to regroup."

"I thought I'd be swimming quick tonight."

Nugent said the relay swimmers had suffered from the weight of expectation.

"There had been so much talked about this relay all over the world and it just goes to show that what is written on paper and the predictions people make, really don't matter," Nugent said.

The Australian coach stands by the plan for the race and the team, which he says was three years in the making. He rejects any suggestions that the swimmers choked in the big arena.

"We just could not pull it off on the night."

Retired Australian swimmer Michael Klim, who won 100 and 200m freestyle relay gold medals at Sydney in 2000, has defended the tactics of the team in London.

Klim says there may have been too much pressure placed on the team, and Magnussen in particular.

"It's not that easy you know," Klim said.

"It's the Olympic Games. It's the pinnacle of sport. It's once in four years and it's such a small margin for error."

"It's a hard situation and the 4 x 100 freestyle relay is probably the pinnacle of pressure."

The result is particularly tough for James Magnussen, who has been dubbed "the Missile" and is known as a confident character in and out of the pool.

He and relay team-mate James Roberts will now have to regroup and race for individual gold on Thursday morning (AEST).

Nugent says Magnussen will be able to put the relay behind him.

"I believe he has got the character to bounce back and you know there are a few more days yet for the 100 freestyle and we will wait and see what happens then."

Nugent says the Australian swimming team has had a good first two days, apart from the men's relay result.

"This is part of the travels in life, the Olympics is a tough stadium," he said.

"You gotta get out there and take the good with the bad. "

Nugent has praised Alicia Coutts for taking bronze in the 100 metres butterfly and Christian Sprenger's silver medal in the 100 metres breaststroke.

Emily Seebohm qualified fastest for the 100 metres backstroke final on Tuesday morning and Leisel Jones is fifth fastest (1:06.81) for the 100 metres breaststroke.

The 26-year-old Jones was last week accused by the media of appearing in poor shape for the London Games.

"Leisel Jones is a great competitor and I have said all along, you do not want to underestimate her," Nugent said.

"She has been in good form, you go back to 1998 and she has been consistent all the way through."