AUSTRALIA'S emerging freestyle sprint sensation, James Magnussen, has lost no confidence going into this month's world championships despite battling pneumonia, the national head coach Leigh Nugent said yesterday.
Magnussen, who arrived in Shanghai last weekend, was heading into the biggest meeting of his career with the third fastest time of the year in the 100 metres freestyle - 48.29 seconds posted when winning this year's national title.
The 20-year-old will be looking to establish himself among the handful of top sprinters in the world, and his chances of a high placing, or possibly a medal, could be helped with the uncertainty surrounding the world and Olympic champion Cesar Cielo, who will appear before the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Wednesday for a hearing to determine if he will be suspended for a positive test to a banned diuretic.
Nugent, who last spoke to Magnussen on Friday and was waiting for an update on his health yesterday, said that given the swimmer's inexperience - he made his first national team at the Pan Pacific championships last year - officials would try to keep him in a mentally positive state while he battled illness.
''We've got to wait and see how he responds over the week, but in my conversations with him he's remained very positive. He is a pretty confident sort of character and also prepared to back himself, so he hasn't lost sight of what he thinks he is capable of doing,'' Nugent said.
Bronte Barratt said she was not getting carried away with her lofty world ranking going into the 200m freestyle. Barratt's time of one minute, 55.74s is the second fastest in the world this year over four laps, behind only teammate Kylie Palmer (1.55.73), both set at this year's national titles.
However, with a strong field including Olympic champion and world record-holder Federica Pellegrini, Barratt knows rankings mean little.
''I don't really think too much about the world rankings because I know it doesn't really mean too much coming into worlds because everyone's in a different stages of their preparations when they've done the times,'' Barratt said. ''But obviously it's given me a bit of confidence knowing that I've done a top-two time in the world this year.''
Meanwhile, Grant Hackett's legendary 1500m world record could be on its last legs, the Australian distance swimming hope Ryan Napoleon says. The Chinese star Sun Yang is tipped to bring down Hackett's time of 14.34.56 - set at the 2001 world titles in Japan and the oldest in world swimming - having come within a second of it at last year's Asian Games. Napoleon, who will compete in the 400m and 800m freestyle, believes all male distance world records are under serious threat, despite so-called super suits being outlawed.
Asked whether other distance records would fall, including Hackett's long-standing 1500m mark, Napoleon replied: ''You'd have to think so, considering the times being set already.''