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Hoogenband Misses 50 m Free Semis
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Reigning Olympic champion Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands placed 17th overall in 86 swimmers Thursday to miss the 50m freestyle semifinals at the Olympic Games here.

World record hold Alexander Popov of Russia, 32, also failed to make it to the semifinals in the evening after finishing 18th overall in 22.58 seconds.

American Gary Hall posted the fastest time in 22.04 while Frederick Bousquet from France was second in 22.24.

Dutchman 100m free winner Hoogenband was 0.52 adrift but he said he did not care much about the elimination.

"I have not qualified (for the 50m freestyle), but I couldn't concentrate, to be honest. I don't care because the 100m (freestyle) was such a relief for me," said the 26-year-old, who beat Australian Ian Thorpe for the 100 m title Wednesday.

"I woke up and thought it was a dream, but when I went to the dining room, everyone stood up, clapped and cheered, and I realized it was true. It is real," he said.

"I trained so hard. It was much harder here than in Sydney. To win a gold is great, but to defend it is even more important. Last night I felt an explosion of happiness," he added.

But Hoogenband thought it a pity for 1996 Olympic champion Popov to miss the semifinals.

"Too bad he didn't make the finals. He is a great swimmer and deserves to be there," Hoogenband said.

World record holder Ian Crocker kicked off his campaign for the men's 100 m butterfly title when the 22-year-old American swam in 52.03 to qualify for the semifinals as the fastest.

World bronze medalist Andriy Serdinov of Ukraine was second in 52.05 while triple Olympic champion Michael Phelps of the United States was third in 52.35.

Frenchwoman Laure Manaudou will occupy the fourth lane in Friday's final as she came first 8:25.91 in the heats.

British Rebecca qualified second of all in 8:28.47 while Japanese Ai Shibata was third in 8:30.08.

Russian Stanislava Komarova entered the evening's semifinals in2:10.71 and Reiko Nakamura of Japan was second in 2:11.14.

Kirsty Coventry from Zimbabwe was third in 2:12.49.
(Xinhua News Agency August 19, 2004)

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