By John Lohn
BEIJING, China, August 15. WE'VE become accustomed to seeing Brazil's Cesar Cielo cook up fast times in the sprint-freestyle events, but primarily in the short-course format while wearing an Auburn suit. Well, Cielo is also quite capable in the long-course pool and will head into the final of he 50 freestyle as the top seed and Olympic-record holder.
Swimming in the first semifinal, Cielo rocketed to a time of 21.34, bettering the Olympic record of France's Amaury Leveaux from the preliminaries. The gold medalist in the 100 freestyle, France's Alain Bernard was the second-fastest qualifier, thanks to a time of 21.54. Bernard briefly was the world-record holder in the event earlier this year.
Australian Ashley Callus was the surprise No. 3 qualifier after registering a performance of 21.68, which placed ahead of the 21.71 of Stefan Nystrand of Sweden. The 2005 world champion, South Africa's Roland Schoeman was fifth in 21.74 while world-record holder Eamon Sullivan of Australia was sixth in 21.75. Sullivan already has won silver in the 100 freestyle.
Leveaux and American Ben Wildman-Tobriner shared the seventh slot to round out the final. Leveaux is the third-fastest performer in history while Wildman-Tobriner is the reigning world champion from Melbourne last year. The other American, Garrett Weber-Gale, was 13th with a time of 22.08.