Comparison fields (finals):
To qualify for the final it took:
Facts going into the race:
Impact of morning finals:
Morning finals were less relevant than the need to raced so hard to get through to the final. Only two of the finalists managed to swim faster when racing for medals - and that was decisive: Jason Lezak (USA) and Cesar Cielo (BRA) stepped up and shared bronze.
Notes from the race:
After the 47.20 of Alain Bernard (FRA) and the 47.05 stunner of a world record in the semis, the final might have been expected to be a tad slower. It was - and that made all the difference to the result. Bernard swam 22.48 and 24.72 in semis and backed up with a repeat performance of 22.53 and 24.68 for a 47.21 victory by 0.11sec over Sullivan, who went out in almost identical fashion in semi and final - 22.44 and 22.48 respectively. It was the tension of the race, that ability not to tighten when the chips are down that sealed the Australian's fate: in the semi, with no-one battling across the lane rope, Sullivan came home in 24.61. In the final, the split was 24.84, and the difference, as far as they naked eye can see, appeared to come only in the closing 10m, when the free-flow surf of a stroke that sealed a world record deserted the holder. Bernard's explosive raw power is the new face of sprinting in a victory of the heavyweight over the slight, light surfer - at least in round one. Lezak (USA), after that rocket-man 46.06 in the relay, backed with a 22.86 and 47.67 effort, while the shared bronze of Cielo (BRA) came off a 22.47 split. In fifth was the defending champion. The triple crown dream had gone. Pieter van den Hoogenband (NED) did his best to survive in a changed world and almost reached the podium again, falling just 0.08sec shy. At 50m, on 23.25, he was last over. He came home in the fastest second 50m of the final: 24.50, for a 47.75 effort - faster than his wins in 2000 and 2004. Hail Pieter the Great - what a fabulous career for the only man in history to race in four Olympic 100m freestyle finals. And note this: his fifth-place finish in 47.75 was his fastest effort of his Olympic career, better than when he blasted through the 48sec barrier back in 2000. He wore the LZR. It helped him defy the years, at least just a touch.
The race had a massive impact on the all-time world rankings. No fewer than eight of the fastest 10 times ever recorded stem from the 2008 Olympic Games.
The impact of suit technology is at its most brutal in this race:
Compare that to the past four Olympic year impacts: in 2004, 31 times made the all-time top 100; in 2000, the dawn of the first tight bodysuits (as opposed to the swish little numbers from 1908 etc), it was 40; in 1996, 23; in 1992, 23.
Impact on all-time top 10
All-time top 10, end 2007:
HISTORY IN THE MAKING:
Alain Bernard became the first French winner of the 100m in Beijing, 2008. Defending champion Pieter van den Hoogenband (NED) had a crack at becoming the first man to win the same crown in the same event at three Games and fell 0.54sec shy. He became the fist man to make four finals in the 100m free. Of the 26 finals contested since 1896, the USA has won 13, the last of which was Matti Biondi's 1988 victory. Hungary and Australia tie on three titles each. The USA has had two clean sweeps, (1920, 24) and Australia one (1956) in the days when three per nation were allowed. The title has been retained five times: Daniels (06, 08); Kahanamoku (12,20); Weissmuller (24, 28); Popov (92, 96, along with wins over 50m at both Games) and Van den Hoogengand (2000, 04). The only two men to medal at three Games over a nine-year period are Kahanamoku and Popov. When Popov took silver behind Van den Hoogenband he took his Olympic tally to four gold and five silvers). Thorpe (AUS) is the only man to have ever won medals over 100, 200 and 400m, his 48.54 for bronze in Athens 2004 faster than Popov ever swam at an Olympic Games (there was no 200m in Weissmuller's day, when he won 100 and 400m titles in 1924).
Fastest: 47.05 (semi) Eamon Sullivan (AUS); 47.21 (final), Alain Bernard (FRA)
World Record wins: Daniels, 1908; Kahanamoku, 1920; Wenden (AUS), 1968; Spitz, 1972; Montgomery, 1976.
Biggest margin: Montgomery's historic 49.99 in 1976 left him 0.82sec ahead for a modern-era record; Weissmuller is king, winning by 2.4sec in 1924.
Closest shave: Charles Scholes (USA) and Hiroshi Suzuki (JPN) both clocked 57.4 in 1952 but Scholes got the judge's decision.