Olympics, Swimming: Cesar Cielo Drops Olympic Record in 50 Free Semis

By John Lohn

BEIJING, China, August 15. WE'VE become accustomed to seeing Brazil's Cesar Cielo cook up fast times in the sprint-freestyle events, but primarily in the short-course format while wearing an Auburn suit. Well, Cielo is also quite capable in the long-course pool and will head into the final of he 50 freestyle as the top seed and Olympic-record holder.

Swimming in the first semifinal, Cielo rocketed to a time of 21.34, bettering the Olympic record of France's Amaury Leveaux from the preliminaries. The gold medalist in the 100 freestyle, France's Alain Bernard was the second-fastest qualifier, thanks to a time of 21.54. Bernard briefly was the world-record holder in the event earlier this year.

Australian Ashley Callus was the surprise No. 3 qualifier after registering a performance of 21.68, which placed ahead of the 21.71 of Stefan Nystrand of Sweden. The 2005 world champion, South Africa's Roland Schoeman was fifth in 21.74 while world-record holder Eamon Sullivan of Australia was sixth in 21.75. Sullivan already has won silver in the 100 freestyle.

Leveaux and American Ben Wildman-Tobriner shared the seventh slot to round out the final. Leveaux is the third-fastest performer in history while Wildman-Tobriner is the reigning world champion from Melbourne last year. The other American, Garrett Weber-Gale, was 13th with a time of 22.08.