Christian Sprenger was beaten well before he stood on the blocks for the Commonwealth Games 100m breaststroke semi-final tonight.
And his immediate swimming career is in jeopardy as his technique, form and confidence are cruelled by a shoulder problem.
The Australian struggled in the second lap to finish sixth in his heat to miss a lane in tomorrow’s gold medal race.
It was an extraordinary fall for the world champion who has battled mental scars at Glasgow 2014 because of the pain from the injury.
England’s Adam Peaty was the fastest qualifier with 59.16secs, a Games record. Sprenger’s time of 1:01.73 was well outside the 58.87s he registered at trials and his personal best 58.79s set when winning the world title in Barcelona 12 months ago.
Sprenger’s problems, which also affected his 200m breaststroke effort and his heat swim this morning, has cast a shadow over Australia’s potential in the 4 x 100m medley later in the meeting.
“I was very close to terms with what was about to happen,” Sprenger said. “As much as I was as confident and positive as possible it just had me. And that isn’t like me. I’m usually a fighter.
“But in this instance my body has decided it isn’t the right time. The time shows that.
“I can’t complete 100m, it is the second lap that is destroyed because the first one takes too much energy.
“Every time I go for that nice reach that I can do the shoulder flares up again.”
The 27-year-old said he would take time off from the sport immediately after the Games to consider whether he can solve the problem and continue.
He definitely ruled out continuing in the 200m discipline, the training for which may have caused his shoulder issue.
The Pan Pacs championships, to be held on the Gold Coast, next month were in doubt.
“I think I need a bit off after the meet to reassess a few things and see if we can work out what went wrong,” Sprenger said.
“The 200 will be taken away. We should have realised that after the trials. I would rather have one gold medal around my neck than try to go for four. What’s the point?
“I need to see this meet and separate myself from the pool, take my mind off swimming for one second.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself over the last three months to perform here and that might have been a problem.”