Fastest final: Beijing - 21.30 - 21.72
Facts going into the race:
Impact of morning finals - what it took to qualify for semis:
Notes from the race:
The world title win from 2007 would not have finished in the top eight in Beijing. Nothing unusual in that, some would say. They lie. But the Samba Begin! Hail Cesar Cielo - first Brazilian Olympic swimming champion. The tussle was supposed to be between world record holder and high-tech glider Eamon Sullivan (AUS) and French combine harvester Alain Bernard (FRA), but it was Cielo who found clear blue water as he blasted down the pool to an Olympic record of 21.30. The minor spoils went to two of the growing number of French sprint musketeers, Amaury Leveax, in 21.45, and Bernard, in 21.49. Veteran Ashley Callus (AUS) found himself ahead of the best pace that Alex Popov ever managed (can you imagine that!) and up on world champion Ben Wildman-Tobriner (USA), teammate Sullivan and Olympic bronze medallist from 2004 Roland Schoeman (RSA). Cielo broke down and fell into the arms of the Frenchmen on the podium, his tears unstoppable. "After yesterday's semi final when I broke the Olympic record, I thought I could bring it down further, I spent all day thinking about this, but finally I stopped and was able to sleep well. But it is difficult to have super swimmers around me ... today was my lucky day, the sun shone for me today." The race was thrilling, the speed sizzling, proof aplenty that fast-skin or not, racing is what counts. Still, hard to judge where the new clock lies right now in an event so heavily skewed by technology: 15 of the fastest 20 times ever and 51 of the best 100 ever all since February 2008. Alex Popov's world record stood at 21.64 at the turn of 2008. It is now 10th fastest ever. Swimmers from four nations and coached in three nations got past the Russian sprint tsar. Must be the coaching, the talent, the this and the that. It's the suit too - no question. A period of calm reflection and adjustment is much needed before the storm brews once more in readiness for Rome 2009. Inconsolable Cielo said: "I'm very happy. I was a little nervous before the race, but I think that was my best race ever. My dream was to be an Olympic champion and that is now realised." In contrast to the victor, the vanquished, Sullivan said: "I haven't been at my best. The last couple of days have taken it out of me. It's been tough. I just didn't have it on the day - it's the way it goes."
Impact on all-time top 10:
All-time top 10, end 2007:
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
Of the seven finals held (1904 was the last before 1988), the USA has won three, Alexander Popov (RUS) two, and Zoltan Halmay (HUN) the Inaugural crown. Gary Hall Jnr shared the crown in 2000 with teammate Anthony Ervin in a final that marked the first joint gold awarded for men in Olympic swimming history. Popov was the first to retain the title, while Hall, champion once more in 2004, finished 4th at US trials and swam into history. Cesar Cielo is the first Brazilian winner of any Olympic swimming title.