/ 15 August 2008

Schoeman powers into 50m freestyle final

Roland Schoeman became the fifth South African swimmer to make a final during Friday morning’s 50m freestyle semifinals.

Drawn against Frenchmen Alain Bernard, the Olympic 100m gold medallist, and Amaury Leveaux, who set the Olympic record of 21,46 seconds in Thursday night’s heats, it was always going to be a fast race.

Schoeman repeated his 0,66 second reaction time of the heats and at the end of the ”splash and dash”, as the event is known, it was Bernard who touched first in 21,54 seconds, with the South African in third behind Australia’s Ashley Callus.

”I am happy with the time — it was all about making the finals. Anything goes tomorrow [Saturday],” said Schoeman, who recorded his second best-ever time of 21,74 seconds.

”This is my baby for these Olympics — I have done everything I can to swim fast. I’ve got two 21,7s under my belt and I believe I can go a bit faster tomorrow.”

Schoeman has had some inadvertent help from TV cameras. ”I’ve been fortunate to be in lane three both times and I see that camera. I just try and chase the camera. It’s like the rabbit for me, instead of looking at swimmers around me, I’m just basically going for the camera. I’m a thorough-bred racer.”

An overall fifth ranking ensures the Athens bronze medallist will not have lane three in the finals, but in this event anything is possible. ”Look back at world champs last year. Ben Wildman won it from lane eight, anything goes tomorrow.”

South Africa’s other semifinalist, Gideon Louw, was unable to qualify in the other race, but swam a personal best time of 21,97 in finishing seventh behind Brazil’s Cesar Cielo Fihlo, who set a new Olympic record of 21,34 seconds.

”The 22 seconds is a hard barrier to break, but now the sky’s the limit — next time I might go 21,7 and then move on in my swimming career from there,” said the 20-year-old, who is experiencing his first Olympics. ”My next goal is London 2012.”

Lyndon Ferns, who on Thursday claimed to have ”just cruised” through his 100m butterfly heat, found the going too hard in the second semifinal, finishing seventh in 52,18, slower by 0,14 seconds than his heat.

The semifinal was won by Ian Crocker in 50,92 seconds, with Corney Swanepoel, a former South African now representing New Zealand, just ahead of Ferns in 52,01. — Sapa