Eamon Sullivan cringes a bit when he sees stories published about him nowadays. It is not so much because of the many injuries that have marred his career or out-of-pool controversies in which he was involved but more because of a simple word that often precedes his name.
''I keep seeing 'veteran' written down next to my name," Sullivan said.
"I don't know if I like that yet, but I am certainly feeling a veteran today, a bit sore and achy."
Sullivan is the fastest qualifier for Saturday night's 50-metre freestyle semi-finals at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games selection trials after winning his morning heat in 22.20, touching out James Magnussen (22.29). Cameron McEvoy, the 100 and 200 freestyle national champion at this meet, was the fifth fastest in 22.79.
Injuries have taken their toll on Sullivan, a former 50m and 100m freestyle world record holder, and the 28-year-old, who was a member of the world champion 4x100 freestyle relay team in 2011, has reduced his program to only the one-lap dash as he returns from two shoulder surgeries and eyes another clean-up next week. It is believed the surgery would not prevent his competing in Glasgow if he makes the team.
"It's been exciting being back, actually having a year-and-a-half off just weighing up my options. Really just enjoying my swimming at the moment," Sullivan said.
"I'm just happy to be here and get back into the system. That was the goal coming in here. Just to post some times to make some [teams] and to get back into some racing and start the process towards Rio.
"It's a bit uncomfortable swimming at the moment but you have to work pretty hard to get back to reasonable shape so I wanted to come here, and whatever happens next week, I'll have to deal with it then but I'm just enjoying getting some races under my belt."
Sullivan, who was among the freestyle relay team members reprimanded last year for the Stilnox bonding session at a pre-Olympic Games camp in Manchester in 2012, said he needed the time away from the pool to figure out whether he wanted to try to continue swimming to his fourth Olympics.
"Big time, even if the shoulder wasn't sore I was already thinking that anyway," he said.
"I think, after 10 to 14 years doing the same thing - and the last four years was especially turbulent with injuries - I really wanted a year to get my body back to where I wanted it to be and have a year in the real world and figure out what I wanted to do, whether I enjoyed the hospitality business or whether I thought I had another Olympic cycle in me.
"I definitely felt like I had unfinished business back in the pool and I am probably more focusing on the 50. I think the changeover is starting to happen now so it's exciting time for the young guys and I'm just hoping I can hang on for another couple of years and get to another Olympics, and I'll be able to retire a happy man."
McEvoy, who caused the upset of the meet by beating Magnussen in the 100 freestyle final on Friday night, said he was happy with his 50 freestyle heat swim, an event at which he does not usually excel.
"I've made the final and got about seventh [for the past two national titles]," McEvoy said.
"I've done all right in the younger years but that transition from the age group to the opens is so different for the 50 because it's such a powerful event."
Mitchell Larkin was the fastest qualifier for Saturday night's 200 backstroke final in 1:58.86, Emily Seebohm was the fastest qualifier for the 50 backstroke semi-finals in 28.56 and Brianna Throssell was the fastest qualifier for the 200 butterfly final in 2:11.22.