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LONDON, England, July 31. Team USA's Nathan Adrian, following up on a strong leg in the men's 400-meter freestyle relay, raced to a strong time to lead the men's 100-meter free prelims at the 2012 London Olympics.
Adrian clocked a time of 48.19 for the top seed heading into semis. That swim nearly eclipsed his top time in textile of 48.05 from the 2011 World Championships. Adrian, a two-time Olympic relay medalist, is gunning for his first individual Olympic medal. He also would like to become the first American to win the sprint crown since Matt Biondi won gold in the event in 1988.
South Africa's Gideon Louw raced to second in 48.29. He's following the South African legacy of Roland Schoeman, who took silver in this event in 2004. It will be his second semifinal action in his career after making semis of the 50 free at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The Netherlands' Sebastiaan Verschuren posted a 48.37 for the third seed, giving his country hope to return the Olympic gold medal that Pieter van den Hoogenband won twice in a row in 2000 and 2004. Australia's James Magnussen, looking to shake off a disappointing outing in the men's 400-meter freestyle relay, qualified fourth in 48.38.
“I took a step in the right direction this morning,” Magnussen said. “I took a fair hit in the relay. I'm trying to bounce back this morning. It was a good swim, I think. (The Australian team failing to win a medal in the 400 free relay) is kind of motivating, but it's more that I'm trying to put it out my memory. It's one of my first failures since I broke on to the international scene.”
Canada's Brent Hayden (48.53), Cayman Islands' Brett Fraser (48.54), Belgium's Pieter Timmers (48.54) and Russia's Nikita Lobintsev (48.60) made up the rest of the top eight.
USA's Cullen Jones qualified ninth in 48.61, while world-record holder and defending bronze medalist Cesar Cielo tied Poland's Konrad Czerniak for 10th with matching 48.67s.
“It was a hard heat,” Cielo said. “Swimming is already hard and now I just want to try to fix my rhythm. I qualified and that's what I wanted. Now it is a matter of cutting some 100th of seconds. [Agnel] is my favorite, he is the guy to win the gold medal. He had a great 200m (freestyle). He swam great in the relay. It is going to be very tough to stop Agnel and Magnussen.”
Cielo was also asked about Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen.
“I am not a girl and I don't do the 400m but I wouldn't like to swim against her,” Cielo said.
Australia's James Roberts (48.93), France's Yannick Agnel (48.93), France's Fabien Gilot (48.95), Cuba's Hanser Garcia (48.97) and Cayman Islands' Shaune Fraser (48.99) rounded out the semifinal field. Agnel, France's 400 freestyle relay anchor hero, who also won the 200 free, is looking for his third medal this week.
“I didn't sleep much last night,” Agnel said. “I feel like an alien. I knew it would be tough to do but I have got all day to recover. I will wait until the end of the week to take everything on board.”
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