Gideon Louw reckons his finest personal sporting memory is walking out on to the pool deck before the men’s 50m freestyle semi-final at the Beijing Olympics, but the 24-year-old South African has given himself a chance of topping that at London 2012, writes Gary Lemke in London.
Louw qualified second fastest overall, in the quickest heat of the morning’s swims in the 100m freestyle heats, with an eye-catching, eyebrow-raising 48.29sec and he’ll have the advantage of going off the blocks in lane four in Tuesday night’s semi-final.
The time was the 16th fastest on the world list for 2012, but it comes when these London Games have turned the formbooks and predictions upside down. Apart from the surprise defeats of Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and the Australian men’s 4x100m freestyle squad, there have been upsets everywhere at the aquatic centre.
Australia’s James Magnussen came into the 100m freestyle competition openly talking up his chances and being regarded the man to beat, but finished second in his heat in 48.38 and will start alongside Louw tonight. The fastest eight men across the two semis will progress to Wednesday night’s final and there is every opportunity for the South African to take his place in that final of one of the sport’s blue riband events.
In the heats he was swimming alone in lane one but was prominent from the outset, despite to the naked eye, appear like he could have got off to a better start from the blocks. He was quickly into his rhythm though and turned in 23.13 before keeping the stroke and rhythm going to touch in 48.29, only a tenth of a second behind the American Nathan Adrian, who was the fastest qualifier overall.
For Graeme Moore, like Louw a finalist from Sunday night’s 4x100m freestyle relay, the news was not as good and his 49.29 was never going to be enough to get him into the semi-finals (last 16). He turned in 23.47 in a heat won by the German Pieter Timmers and always looked to be off the pace.
There was better news for the men’s 4x200m freestyle squad though and with Chad le Clos finishing off the race to touch in the outside lane in third place behind France and Germany in 7min 11.51sec, it helped South Africa qualify for the final ÔÇô which will be Le Clos’ third of what is a huge statement at these London Games. And there is more to come, with the fearless youngster in action in the 200m butterfly final later on Tuesday.
Sebastien Rousseau was impressive in swimming the third leg after Darian Townsend had led off and handed over to Jean Basson. Rousseau blazed his way through the water in the first 50m. Though the effort took its toll in the final 50m, he gave over to Le Clos in fourth spot and the prodigious talent again finished strongly to touch in third.