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LONDON, England, August 2. IN a swim reminiscent of the 2000 gold medal tie between Gary Hall Jr. and Anthony Ervin, Brazil's Cesar Cielo and USA's Cullen Jones deadheated in the first semifinal of the men's 50-meter freestyle to lead the way into finals at the 2012 London Olympics.
Cielo and Jones posted matching times of 21.54. The swims bettered the Olympic textile best of 21.77 clocked by George Bovell in prelims, while Jones' time cleared the American textile best of 21.55 posted by Nathan Adrian at the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships.
Cielo is gunning for a title defense, as he topped France's Amaury Leveaux in 2008. Out of the six times this event has been held, two men have already defended titles. Alexander Popov won in 1992 and 1996, while Hall Jr. picked up the 2000 and 2004 Olympic gold medals.
“The most important thing was not the fact that I was first, but that I did a good time,” Cielo said.
Jones, shaking off a disappointing effort in the 100 free, put himself in position for his first individual Olympic medal. He won gold as part of the men's 400 free relay in 2008, and silver this week as part of that same relay. He'd like to join Ervin as an African-American medalist in the event.
“It was much better than this morning, it's better than I predicted,” Jones said. “This morning I was a little bit out of it, I was fortunate to make the semis. Tonight I needed to do everything as perfect as possible, and I've done my best time of the year. This is my best time without suit. I am knocking on the door of the American record. I swim my own race. Everyone's trying to get their hand on the wall first. Don't matter who it is, I'm going to get my hand on the wall first.”
Ervin, meanwhile, continued to throw down strong times. He posted a 21.62 in semifinal 1 to qualify third. That time nearly beat his lifetime best of 21.60 from the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, and easily crushed the time he and Hall used to win gold in 2000 (21.98).
“It feels great,” Ervin said. “I came here to race the best in the world, I'm stoked to be racing the best in the world.”
Brazil's Bruno Fratus (21.63), Trinidad and Tobago's George Bovell (21.77), France's Florent Manaudou (21.80), Australia's Eamon Sullivan (21.88) and South Africa's Roland Schoeman (21.88) also made the finale. Schoeman took bronze in this event in 2004.
“That's always the way I race, I always rely on a good finish,” Fratus said. “I am really satisfied with that time. It will be a really tight race tomorrow. There will be only 100ths of a second in it.”
Australia's James Magnussen took 11th with a 22.00, missing finals.
“I feel mentally exhausted and physically not far behind. I did not sleep last night. I had no expectations on myself for this race,” Magnussen said. “I was chasing from the start and felt a little bit rusty. It has been a very stressful week, especially after losing in the relay (AUS came 4th in the men's 4x100m freestyle) so I had no expectations on myself.”
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