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BARCELONA, Spain, August 2. OLYMPIC gold medalist Florent Manaudou of France blitzed the field in the men’s 50-meter freestyle tonight at the FINA World Championships.
After clocking a textile best 21.34 en route to his gold medal victory in the Olympic Games last summer in London, Manaudou is looking to assert himself as the top splash-and-dasher in the world for the second consecutive year. Tonight, he sizzled with a 21.37 as he nearly took down his textile best in the process.
France has been knocking at the door of the world title in the 50 free for quite some time, with Fred Bousquet taking silver and Amaury Leveaux taking bronze in 2009 behind Cesar Cielo as well as Alain Bernard finishing with a bronze behind Cielo in 2011. Manaudou is vying to become the first Frenchman to ever hold the 50-meter free world title.
USA’s Anthony Ervin clocked a lifetime best effort of 21.42 to qualify second. The time blasted his previous best of 21.60 from the 2012 Olympic Trials, and rattled Cullen Jones’ American record of 21.40 from the semifinals of the 2009 World Championships. It’s astonishing to think what Ervin has done in his comeback after a lengthy break from the sport. He won the 2001 title in 22.09 ahead of the prestigious Pieter van den Hoogenband that year.
USA’s Nathan Adrian, looking to shake off disappointment from a bronze in the 100 free this week, qualified third in 21.60 with the same time as two-time defending champion Cesar Cielo as the two tied for the win in the first semifinal.
Cielo is looking to join Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Aaron Peirsol, Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett as the only swimmers to ever accomplish a threepeat, but is going to have to hit on all cylinders in the finale to top the likes of Manaudou.
Bousquet (21.62), Russia’s Vlad Morozov (21.63), South Africa’s Roland Schoeman (21.67) and Trinidad and Tobago’s George Bovell (21.74) earned the other spots in the finale, while 100 free victor James Magnussen just missed finals with a ninth-place 21.79. Schoeman matched his African record from the 2008 Beijing Games with his effort tonight.