By John Lohn
OMAHA, Nebraska, July 2. IF the French thought the United States would roll over and allow the 400 free relay title to reside in Europe, they were badly mistaken. As the preliminaries of the 100 freestyle opened, several performances made it clear that the Stars and Stripes are swimming faster than ever in the two-lap freestyle.
Racing in the 14th of 15 heats, Garrett Weber-Gale established an American record in the event, touching the wall in 47.78. The University of Texas product erased the previous American mark of Jason Lezak, who went 48.15 a heat earlier. Lezak's swim bettered his former domestic standard of 48.17. Then, in the final heat, Michael Phelps reeled in the field during the last lap – what else is new – to produce a time of 47.92.
"My father Mark always gives me three pieces of advice," Weber-Gale said after breaking the record. "Trust in your coach, trust in your stroke and swim your own race."
"Records are meant to be broken," Lezak said upon hearing that Weber-Gale has just broken his record.
Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman, announced after the prelims that his pupil was only swimming the first round of the event, so Phelps will be MIA for the semifinals.
"My goal this morning was to allow me to post a time that could put me on the relay," Phelps said. "I wish the Olympics were longer than eight days, so I could swim more relays.
"The 100 free is getting faster and faster," Phelps continued. "We have two guys under 48 this morning. This could put us in a position to beat the French."
It took 49.37 to return to the evening semifinals, an illustration of the depth the U.S. features. Grabbing the fourth spot for the semifinals was Ben Wildman-Tobriner, who checked in with a mark of 48.59, and the No. 5 position was occupied by Matt Grevers (48.63), fresh off his Olympic-qualifying bid in the 100 backstroke from a night before.
Cullen Jones and Nick Brunelli followed in 48.71 and 48.74, respectively, and Alex Righi took the eighth position in 48.80. Rounding out the field for the semifinals were Ryan Lochte (48.88), Nathan Adrian (48.89), Dave Walters (49.04), Gabe Woodward (49.13), Andy Grant (49.21), Neil Walker (49.28), Matt McGinnis (49.28) and Jayme Cramer (49.37).
Also, for those asking, Ian Crocker was disqualified in the final heat for a false start.
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.