By John Lohn
MONTREAL, Canada, July 24. A few weeks ago, while swimming in the Southern California Swim Series, Roland Schoeman didn’t look particularly sharp. Um, it doesn’t matter much now. The South African sprint sensation absolutely obliterated the world record in the 50-meter butterfly with a dazzling semifinal mark of 23.01. That time trimmed .29 off the 2004 standard of American Ian Crocker.
Schoeman raced in the first of the two semifinals and blazed through his one lap. By the 25-meter mark, there was no doubt whether Schoeman would win the race. The question: Would he break Crocker’s record. Crocker came back in the next heat with a swim of 23.32, the third-fastest performance in history. Certainly, Monday’s final will be lightning fast.
Schoeman had a spectacular campaign in 2004, punctuated by a trio of Olympic medals, including a world-record performance as part of the South African 400 freestyle relay. Schoeman also took the silver medal in the 100 freestyle and collected bronze in the 50 free. He is a threat to win the sprint-free double at these championships.
After Schoeman and Crocker, the third position for the final was secured by the Ukraine’s Sergiy Breus (23.53) while the fourth position went to Brazil’s Fernando Scherer (23.55). Rounding out the final eight were South Africa’s Ryk Neethling (23.62), Croatia’s Duje Draganja (23.71), Russia’s Evgeny Korotyshkin (23.82) and Canada’s Mike Mintenko (23.85).