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LONDON, England, August 3. THE youngest man in a loaded men's 50-meter freestyle finale emerged as the victor as France's Florent Manaudou hit the wall first in the splash-and-dash at the 2012 London Olympics.
With nearly everyone looking towards a title defense by Brazil's Cesar Cielo, or a storybook win from veterans Anthony Ervin or Roland Schoeman, Manaudou managed to post the fastest time in textile with a scorching time of 21.34. That swim eclipsed Fred Bousquet's textile best of 21.36 set in August of 2010, and nearly bested Cielo's Olympic record of 21.30 used to win the 2008 gold medal. The win is Manaudou's first at the international level. His previous best time had been a fifth-place effort in the 50 fly at the 2011 World Championships. Olympic gold-medal talent runs in his family as he is the younger brother of Laure Manaudou — the 2007 World Female Swimmer of the Year. The win is France's first gold in the event after Amaury Leveaux and Alain Bernard took silver and gold in 2008.
Siblings have competed many times in the Olympics before, but research indicates this is the first time siblings have gold medals. Laure won the 400 free in Athens in 2004.
“If I didn't believe it, I wouldn't be in an Olympic final,” Florent Manaudou said. “I was very relaxed. I think it's the secret, being relaxed. The heats were tougher, the semis were a bit easier. It was my aim to get into the final. By being in the final, I felt I had succeeded and it was just fun from then on. In the 50m it's very quick, you don't look. I saw the light come on. I knew I was going to be on the podium which was great but I didn't know I would be first. Laure told me she was very very proud of me. I hope I'll have as great a career as she has.”
USA's Cullen Jones raced to silver in 21.54, matching his semifinal time in the process. Those two efforts are the best by an American in textile, and gave him a second silver medal for the meet. He helped Team USA to a runner-up finish in the 400 freestyle relay earlier in the week. Overall, Jones now has three Olympic medals, including his gold as part of the 2008 400 freestyle relay.
“When you are really envisioning gold, silver just doesn't touch it, but I'm ecstatic,” Jones said. “It's my first individual podium and I got a medal. There are so many big names in the competition and I had to do well in all three (rounds of the competition). I hope to win in the relay tomorrow. Two silvers and a gold, I will take it.”
Cielo missed his chance at a title defense with a third-place 21.59, but still managed to become just the fifth swimmer to earn multiple medals in the event. Gary Hall Jr. won three, while Alexander Popov, Matt Biondi and Tom Jager each won two during their Olympic careers. The medal is Cielo's third. Along with his 50 free hardware, he also took bronze in the 100 free in 2008.
“I felt tired,” Cielo said. “Four days in a row I have been swimming. Today I wasn't feeling well. We (Brazil) leave here with good medals.”
Brazil's Bruno Fratus (21.61) placed fourth, while USA's Anthony Ervin, at 31 years of age after a 12 year hiatus, managed to pull off a fifth-place finish in 21.78. Ervin previously tied with Hall for gold in 2000 before heading off into the sunset during a retirement that stuck for more than a decade. He returned to the pool after heading back to the University of California to finish his college degree and start on a master's degree as part of an assignment to write about his relationship with the sport.
South Africa's Roland Schoeman, 32, finished sixth in 21.80. Schoeman has competed in three straight Olympics, and has three medals to his name with one of each color from the 2004 Athens Games.
Trinidad and Tobago's George Bovell (21.82) and Australia's Eamon Sullivan (21.98) completed the championship heat.
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