By John Lohn
OMAHA, Nebraska, July 4. THE Fourth of July Fireworks didn't wait until after sundown. They were ignited during the semifinals of the 50 freestyle. Five of the eight qualifiers for tomorrow's championship final cracked the 22-second barrier, with Ben Wildman-Tobriner leading the way with a clocking of 21.65.
The reigning world champion set a personal best and produced the second-fastest swim in American history to grab the No. 1 position for the title heat. He was followed in the second position by Cullen Jones, who set the American record of 21.59 during the preliminaries. In the semifinals, Jones covered his lap in 21.71.
Qualifying in the third position was Garrett Weber-Gale, fresh off a victory in the 100 freestyle a night earlier. Weber-Gale, swimming next to Wildman-Tobriner, was timed in 21.83. Two-time defending Olympic champion Gary Hall Jr., looking superb at the age of 33, earned the fourth seed for the final, thanks to a performance of 21.94.
"I've got a shot at making my fourth Olympic Team," Hall said. "So many coaches say to swim your own race, but the 50 is about racing everybody else and that's what I'm doing."
The last of the swimmers to crack the 22-second mark was Nick Brunelli, who registered an effort of 21.99. Brunelli is looking for his first Olympic berth after placing seventh in the 100 free and just missing a 400 freestyle relay nod. Rounding out the field for the final were Jason Lezak (22.01), already qualified for Beijing in the 100 free, Nathan Adrian (22.03) and Bryan Lundquist (22.32). Adrian has also qualified for China as a member of the 400 free relay.
Video Footage Removed Due to NBC Restrictions
Go to Swimming World's 2008 Olympics Landing Page for the most comprehensive coverage of the meet on the Internet.