By John Lohn
Photos by Peter H. Bick
MONTREAL, Canada, July 28. IT was supposed to be Roland Schoeman’s show, and for the first half of the race, that certainly was the case. But, at the finish of the men’s 100-meter freestyle on Thursday night, Italy’s Filippo Magnini was the man who finished on top. Magnini posted the third-fastest time in history and claimed the gold medal in 48.12.
Schoeman, from South Africa, turned at the 50-meter mark in a ludicrous split of 22.42 and appeared to be in position to challenge the 47.84 world record of the Netherlands’ Pieter van den Hoogenband. But, Schoeman couldn’t maintain his obscene pace and finished in 48.28. Schoeman’s countryman, Ryk Neethling, won bronze in a PR 48.34. Neethling picked up bronze earlier in the week in the 200 free.
Magnini was fourth at the turn, but gained with each stroke during the final 50 meters. When he looked at the scoreboard and realized his championship, the Italian celebrated with a fist pump. The United States’ Jason Lezak surged to fourth place in 48.74 and Croatia’s Duje Draganja was the fifth-place finisher, as he was timed in 48.89.
Canada’s Brent Hayden dipped to NR 48.92 for sixth place and American Michael Phelps was seventh, going 48.99. Phelps took the challenge of the 100 freestyle to prove his worth in an expanded number of events. Eventually, Phelps could become a major player in the event, but must improve his opening 50 meters. The eighth-place slot went to France’s Amaury Leveaux (49.55).