SYDNEY — Australian media on Monday lashed out at their world champion men's 4x100m freestyle relay team's failure to win an Olympic medal, calling it one of the country's greatest swimming disasters.
The Sydney Daily Telegraph lamented a "dark day", with James "Missile" Magnussen, the fastest man in the world this year, singled out after swimming a sluggish first leg.
"Our failure to win a medal in the men's 4x100m freestyle relay is our greatest swimming disaster in a rich history that dates back to Fanny Durack winning gold at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics," it said on its website.
Australia went into the race led by the two quickest 100m swimmers this year in Magnussen and James "Rocket" Roberts, plus former world record holder Eamon Sullivan, and Matt Targett.
They were hot favourites but flopped, finishing outside the medals in fourth behind winners France, the United States and Russia.
"The so-called 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' were the hottest of hot favourites to win the gold medal but all four swimmers swam badly," the Telegraph said, adding that they "bombed out in a big way".
The Sydney Morning Herald screamed "Relay team's final choke" and said the dazed Magnussen's Games were in pieces.
"James Magnussen's Olympic campaign is currently in tatters after the 21-year-old sensation suffered the first major disappointment of his career," it said.
"Australia has only ever seen the confident, bold and freakishly fast James Magnussen.
"On Sunday night at the Olympic pool in London, they saw a shattered man, wandering around in a daze and staring into space. He did not know how to react to defeat."
The Australian broadsheet also focused on Magnussen, saying: "Dud Missile shocks relay teammates".
"A year ago James Magnussen sent shockwaves through the world of swimming, and now he has done it again, but this time he is the one left devastated," the newspaper said.
"Magnussen has been untouchable since he burst on to the scene at the world titles in Shanghai last year, leading the relay team to a gold medal and then backing up to win the world title. But he was all too vulnerable in London."
Magnussen must now refocus for the individual 100m later in the week where he has been widely expected to challenge Brazilian rival Cesar Cielo's world record.
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