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Relay swimmers stunned by fourth
Paul Mulvey
07:39 AEST Mon Jul 30 2012

Three anxious Australian swimmers were waiting for something spectacular to happen.

So was most of Australia.

But, realistically, they knew they were hoping in vain.

In the end, James Magnussen looked ashen-faced and, after he pulled his head from his hands, just stared aimlessly ahead, while his teammates Matt Targett, Eamon Sullivan and James Roberts were equally stunned.

The closest thing Australia had to a certain gold medal going into the London Olympics disintegrated into nothing as the 4x100m freestyle swimmers were left behind by France, the US and Russia.

When Roberts dived in for the last leg in third place, just under a second behind then leader the US, his teammates stood helplessly behind the blocks.

"When we're in that situation, we're hoping for something spectacular to happen," Sullivan said.

"The realistic thing was nothing was going to happen. We were behind from the start."

The swimmers genuinely thought Magnussen, the fastest man in the world, would get them off to a flying start with a world record.

But the Missile misfired, touching in second behind American Nathan Adrian, but of most concern was that he swam 0.7 of a second slower than he had in the morning heats.

It surprised his teammates as much as it shocked everyone else.

"James looked unbeatable for so long. We were trying to prepare for any situation but when that happened, that was one thing we weren't expecting," Sullivan said.

"I think it might have thrown us."

And from there, the Australians couldn't recover as Targett slipped further behind to third, although Sullivan had the best swim of the quartet and made up some ground.

Roberts, the world's second fastest man, made early gains but Russian Danila Izotov swept past him, just as Frenchman Yannick Agnel mowed down Ryan Lochte, swimming the final leg a second faster than the American in a lightning 46.74 seconds.

The hot favourites finished an unthinkable fourth.

"Words can't describe," Magnussen said of his disappointment.

But the look on his face did.

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