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LONDON, England, July 31. AUSTRALIA's James Magnussen bounced back from missing the podium in the men's 400-meter freestyle relay with a sterling semifinal time to lead the way in the men's 100-meter freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics.
Magnussen charted a strong 47.63 in semis, besting Pieter van den Hoogenband's Olympic textile best of 47.84 set at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Magnussen, the defending world champion who has the overall textile best to his name with a 47.10, is looking for his first Olympic medal. He's also looking to become Australia's first gold medalist in the event since Mike Wenden topped the 100 free back in 1968.
“It is a relief more than anything to feel what it is like to go fast. Felt really good tonight and that I still have plenty left in the tank,” Magnussen said. “You've probably seen when I have walked through rooms like these (media mixed zone) I have been a little bit down and little bit out of sorts. I had doubts [after the 400 free relay], something that I haven't done throughout my whole career. I have always been so confident. It was probably the reality check that I needed. If I can win this one (men's 100m freestyle) tomorrow night it will be for the other boys in the relay team.”
USA's Nathan Adrian clocked a 47.97 during the second semifinal heat for the second seed. That swim is just off his relay leadoff of 47.89 from the men's 400-meter freestyle relay. He's looking for his first individual Olympic medal after earning gold on the men's 400 free relay in 2008 and silver on that relay this year. He finished sixth in the event at the 2011 World Championships.
“It was great to get under 48 (seconds) and see what the rest of the field has to offer,” Adrian said. “It's a different beast to trials and qualifying for Team USA. I use it to motivate myself in training but when it comes to competition I tend to feel the pressure. I just don't want to deal with it. It's just me and a 50-metre pool.”
Cuba's Hanser Garcia, who has built a name as a darkhorse medal candidate throughout the swimming blogosphere, realized some of that hyped potential with a third-seeded time of 48.04. His country has only won two medals in the past with Neisser Bent and Rodolfo Falcon having earned medals in the men's 100 back.
The Netherlands' Sebastiaan Verschuren clinched the fourth seed with a 48.13, while defending bronze medalist and world-record holder Cesar Cielo checked in with a 48.17 for the fifth seed. Canada's Brent Hayden (48.21), France's Yannick Agnel (48.23) and Russia's Nikita Lobintsev (48.38) also made the finale. USA's Cullen Jones missed out with a 14th-place 48.60.
“I slowed down a little bit at the end as it was just me and James (Magnussen]. I could have gone faster,” Cielo said. “I want to go under 48 (seconds) in the final. That's my main goal, and then I'll think about a medal. We're all friends. Competition is competition – inside the pool you can't think about your friends.”
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