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Bernard snaps 100 world record

ALAIN Bernard clocked a world record for the 100-meter freestyle in 46.94 seconds in the semifinals of the French swimming championships in Montpellier on Thursday.

Olympic champion Bernard became the first man to break the 47-second barrier for the blue-riband event, beating the previous record of 47.05 seconds set by Australian Eamon Sullivan in the semifinals at last year's Beijing Games.

The record's ratification, however, could be a problem because Bernard was using a new type of suit pending approval from swimming authorities.

Bernard had briefly held the 100 world record in Beijing, clocking 47.20 in his semifinal, but Sullivan took it straight back.

The 25-year-old Bernard then completed his remarkable rise from obscurity by winning the Olympic final.

"I wanted to swim as fast as I can," Bernard said in a televised interview after setting his record on Thursday. "Being the first man under 47 seconds is magnificent."

The world record could be under threat in the final in which Bernard can expect a challenge from Amaury Leveaux, who won his semifinal in 47.76 seconds on Thursday.

The championships confirmed the strength of French swimming with four men under 48 seconds in the 100 semifinals.

"The record is fantastic and having four swimmers under 48 seconds tells you a lot," said French team boss Christian Donze. "I don't think any other nation can do that at the moment."

Bernard's previous best time for the 100 this year was 48.52 set last month, but he had said some punishing training sessions prevented him from swimming faster.

The Frenchman warned in Thursday morning's heats he could swim fast, clocking 47.86 for the quickest time this year.

His record is certain to stir up debate on a new type of suit being used at the championships but Bernard's coach Denis Auguin said his swimmer deserved all the credit.

"He just did what he does best the best he could," Auguin said. "Of course there is new equipment being used but everybody else has it, too."

The reserved but resolute Bernard, who stands 1.96 meters tall and has an arm span of 2.05 meters, was nicknamed the "hovercraft" by former top French sprinter Bruno Gutzeit, who sees him as the ultimate swimming machine.


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