(Reuters) - Australian swimmer James Magnussen is confident he has left behind the heartbreak and controversies surrounding his below-par showing at the London Olympics and promised to return to the pool as a more humble and disciplined athlete.
In the lead-up to London, Magnussen, the 'missile' of Australian swimming, had promised to win the 100 metres gold medal and the 4x100m freestyle relay. However, he was pipped for gold in the 100 while the relay team finished fourth.
Compounding the problems, Magnussen and his relay team mates were recently fined and given deferred suspensions, amid a storm of criticism in Australia, for using a banned sedative in a bonding session before the London Games.
The world freestyle champion said that reports of a widespread cultural decay in Australia's swim team has been blown out of proportion and was relieved to return to competition at the Australian championships starting on Friday.
"It feels quite comfortable and quite good to be back around this environment," Magnussen told reporters in Adelaide on Thursday.
"I feel very out of place and I get quite nervous having to front press conferences and things like that when it's not about my swimming.
"First and foremost, I'm a swimmer. I swim fast and that is what I do. That is where I feel comfortable so it's good to be back in this environment."
Magnussen, Matt Targett, Eamon Sullivan, James Roberts, Cameron McEvoy and Tommaso D'Orsogna admitted they had used the sedative and been involved in "childish" and "stupid" pranks at their training camp in Manchester before the Games last year.
The swimmer, however, wants people to judge him once again by his performances in the pool.
"Once I'm comfortable in my own skin and once I am swimming fast and acting the way that I want to act, then people will judge me accordingly," he said.
"I participated in all the due processes and I think that is behind us now.
"I think it's really important for us as a swimming community, and absolutely myself in particular, to focus on the swimming now and put the results on the board and let people focus on the positives."
The dismal show in London has taught him what it takes to be humble and the 22-year-old Magnussen felt he was lucky to learn the lesson at such a young age.
"One thing I have learnt is a lot more respect for my competitors," he added.
"I saw guys like (Michael) Phelps and (Ryan) Lochte and even (100m freestyle gold medallist) Nathan Adrian perform at the highest level and put that bravado and that ego to the side.
"So I think that was a really important lesson for me to learn. And I certainly plan on conducting myself slightly different around the pool this year."
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Patrick Johnston)