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Swimming - Sullivan wins world record duel

BEIJING (Reuters) - Australia’s Eamon Sullivan reclaimed the men’s 100 metres freestyle world record snatched from him by Frenchman Alain Bernard only minutes earlier in the Olympic semi-finals on Wednesday.

Eamon Sullivan of Australia celebrates after setting a world record in his men's 100m freestyle swimming semifinal at the National Aquatics Centre during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 13, 2008. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen

Bernard sped through the first semi-final in 47.20 seconds, clipping 0.04 seconds from the mark posted on Monday by Sullivan as lead-off swimmer in the 4x100 metres freestyle relay.

But Sullivan grabbed it straight back, swinging through the second semi-final in 47.05 to enter Thursday’s final as the fastest qualifier.

“I felt great, came off that turn, I felt like I didn’t spend much energy on the way out and felt good on that second lap,” Sullivan said. “It went pretty well. I swam my own race.

“I knew you’d have to be on your game this morning and no holding back at all.”

Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband, aiming for an unprecedented third successive Olympic men’s 100 freestyle title, finished second behind Sullivan for the third-best overall time of 47.68.

Jason Lezak, whose great anchor leg swim helped the U.S. win Monday’s relay and keep alive Michael Phelps’s dream of winning eight golds at a single Games, also came through as sixth-fastest overall in 47.98.

Joint world champions Filippo Magnini of Italy and Canadian Brent Hayden, however, failed to make the cut.

“Records don’t mean much, it’s about medals,” Sullivan said.

“It gave me confidence. I know I can swim my own race under pressure. Having that world record go before me I didn’t want to get drawn into it. I came out on top.”

Bernard said: “What Sullivan did was a great answer to my record but the main thing here is qualifying.”

Van den Hoogenband, whose 47.84 world record from the 2000 Sydney semi-final stood until Bernard broke it in March this year, said he was delighted to advance.

“It’s a new generation, a new way of swimming. I’m happy to make the final for the fourth time in a row,” the 30-year-old Dutchman, who pulled out of the 200 freestyle to concentrate on the 100, said.

(Additional reporting by Martin Petty)

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