LONDON — The 50-meter freestyle is commonly called the “splash and dash,” because that’s about all the swimmers do until they reach the wall in the sport’s shortest Olympic race.
Cullen Jones considers it his best event. On Friday night, it will give the former N.C. State star and current Charlotte resident his best chance at the individual Olympic medal he has long sought.
Jones and Brazil’s Cesar Cielo – who holds the world record in the 50 – tied for first place in the semifinals Thursday with a time of 21.54 seconds. Cielo has not been beaten in the event in a major international meet since he won the gold medal in the 50 free in Beijing four years ago.
Jones’ American teammate Anthony Ervin – who won gold in the same event in 2000, then retired – is also a threat. He was just behind Cielo and Jones in the semifinal with the third-fastest time.
Those three could share the podium in some order Friday night, or they could be bested by several other swimmers in the veteran field. The event is scheduled for 3:09 p.m. Eastern time.
Jones had to swim twice on Thursday to make the eight-man final and did substantially better the second time.
“David (Jones’ coach, David Marsh of Charlotte) saw some things with my start that I didn’t do right,” Jones said. “This morning I was just a little bit out of it… Then the semifinals ended up being the best time for me this year and the best time ever for me without a suit (a high-tech bodysuit, which are now banned from the sport). So I’m thrilled and looking toward to the final.”
Jones has two Olympic medals already in his career – a silver and a gold – but they both came in relays. He made the semifinal but not the final in his other individual event – the 100 freestyle – in these Olympics.
Also on Thursday, SwimMAC’s Micah Lawrence finished sixth in the women’s 200 breaststroke final. The event was won by her U.S. teammate, Rebecca Soni, who set her second world record in the same events in two nights with a time of 2 minutes, 19.59 seconds.
Lawrence swam 2:23.27, which was just a hair slower than she did to make the team at the U.S. Olympic Trials. But she would have had to be more than two seconds faster to medal in what was a very fast race.
“I didn’t go in with any expectations,” Lawrence said. “I didn’t want to put any kind of pressure on myself to medal – just to do the best that I could at that moment in time. I think I went out and did that, so I’m pretty happy with it.”
Also on Friday, SwimMAC’s Kara Lynn Joyce will swim in the women’s 50 freestyle preliminaries. If Joyce makes the final, it will be on Saturday. Joyce finished second at the U.S. Olympic trials a month ago to make her third straight Olympics.