By John Lohn and Dana Lawrence Lohn
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, August 4. JUST minutes after Dara Torres set an American record in the women's 50-meter freestyle, the men's field had a difficult chore ahead. But, Ben Wildman-Tobriner put together a performance that deserved some serious respect of its own. Charging down the stretch, Wildman-Tobriner caught Cullen Jones at the wall for the gold medal.
The reigning world champion in the 50 free, Wildman-Tobriner surged into the wall to register a time of 21.80, tied for the second-fastest ever by an American, along with Anthony Ervin. He was just off the national standard of 21.76, set by Gary Hall Jr. in 2000.
"My goals coming in were to have a personal best – and I did that [his previous best was 21.88] – and to set a new American Record – I finished just short of that one. I really thought I could get the AR, but there's just not a lot of margin for error in this race. I've been concentrating on the 100 [freestyle] this summer, and I had best times in the 100 fly and the 50 free at this meet. I'm going to just keep going," said Tobriner, who also made this witty and respectful observation regarding Dara Torres' record-setting 50 freestyle: "When I'm 40, I don't think I'll be going as fast as her, or as fast as I am now!"
Cullen Jones, who has been nursing a back injury, finished second in 21.82, a personal best. Wildman-Tobriner trailed Jones for the majority of the one-lap sprint, but nudged slightly ahead just before the touch. The men went gold-silver at the World Champs and a duplicate result in Beijing next year is a possibility. Only France's Alain Bernard has gone faster this year, thanks to a mark of 21.76 in the middle of June.
Nick Brunelli also delivered a strong showing, as he was timed in 22.05 for third place. Brunelli has made major strides since undergoing shoulder surgery after last year's Nationals and will certainly make an Olympic push in the 50 and 100 freestyles. The fourth and fifth positions went to the South African tandem of Roland Schoeman (22.16) and Ryk Neethling (22.44).