Cielo seals 50m butterfly title days after doping ruling
Cesar Cielo said his doping ordeal was behind him. On Monday, the emotions of the past month came back in full force when the Brazilian won the 50-metre butterfly at the world championships.
Cielo propped himself up on a lane rope, looked up at the scoreboard and began sobbing.
Last week, Cielo was cleared of wrongdoing by the Court of Arbitration for Sport following an emergency hearing here in China.
"It's been a tough time for me, something that I didn't expect at all for my career," Cielo said. "But I had to deal with it and it feels like the biggest relief of my life to overcome something like that and be able to compete."
Also on the second night of the eight-day meet, host China took its first gold when 15-year-old Ye Shiwen went from fifth to first during the final freestyle leg in the women's 200 individual medley.
Julia Wilkinson of Stratford, Ont., finished eighth.
Alexander Dale Oen led from start to finish to take gold in the 100 breaststroke, then pointed to the Norwegian flag on his swim cap in honour of the 93 people killed during the twin attacks in his country.
"I guess I was racing a little bit more with my heart today than I was technically," Dale Oen said.
Earlier, the powerful American team took its first title when Dana Vollmer won the 100 fly for her first individual gold at a worlds or Olympics.
Also, Michael Phelps qualified only fifth in the 200 freestyle semifinals, which was led by French teenager Yannick Agnel. Germany's Paul Biedermann, who handed Phelps a stinging defeat in this event at the last worlds in Rome two years ago, qualified second, and Phelps' teammate Ryan Lochte was third.
"As long as I have a lane, that's all I need," said Phelps, who will swim in lane two in Tuesday's final. "I have my strategy that I want to do tomorrow. I tried to conserve as much as I could."
Cielo, who will also attempt to defend his 50 and 100 freestyle titles later this week, finished his race in 23.10 seconds. Matthew Targett took the silver in 23.28 and Australian teammate Geoff Huegill, who has come out of a four-year retirement, took the bronze in 23.35.
Cielo and three teammates tested positive for furosemide, a banned diuretic, at a meet in Rio de Janeiro in May. After the Brazilian swimming federation gave Cielo a warning, swimming governing body FINA appealed the decision to the CAS, which upheld the Brazilian ruling.
Cielo said he consumed the drug in a contaminated batch of a food supplement he regularly uses.
The ruling prompted an outcry from other swimmers, who called it unfair, and there were some whistles in the crowd after his victory.
"This gold medal has a different feeling from the other ones," Cielo said. "This was the hardest I've had in my life. It was a time to test not just my talent in swimming but how much I could take and still stand up so I'm really proud of myself for being able to do so."
Cielo cried again during the medal ceremony, and the capacity crowd at the Oriental Sports Center responded by applauding in encouragement.
"It's difficult for him," Targett said. "I'm not going to speak for my friend, but I lived with the guy and I know exactly what he's going through. At times like this, you find out who your real friends are."
Targett called Kenyan racer Jason Dunford, who finished seventh, a "sore loser" for allegedly putting his thumbs down after the race.
"I'm really happy for him," Targett continued. "And if I was ever to get beaten by anybody I would want it to be a friend."
Vollmer won her race in 56.87, just 0.07 ahead of Australia's Alicia Coutts, with Lu Ying of China 0.19 back in third.
Coutts also won silver in the 200 IM, placing one-tenth of a second behind Ye's winning time of 2:08.90. Defending champion and world record holder Arianna Kukors of the United States took the bronze, 0.22 back, while Olympic champion Stephanie Rice was fourth.
"First world championships and two silver medals in two days of being here, so I'm pretty happy with that," Coutts said. "You know there's that little element of disappointment being so close to gold, but it all comes with experience."
Dale Oen clocked 58.71 for his victory, 0.13 seconds off Brenton Rickard's world record set at the 2009 worlds. Fabio Scozzoli of Italy took the silver and Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa won the bronze. Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima of Japan finished fourth and Rickard was fifth.
In the women's 100 breaststroke semifinals, American standout Rebecca Soni led in 1:04.91, 1.75 seconds ahead of Australian rival Leisel Jones.
Calgary's Jillian Tyler finished sixth 1:07.28 and also advanced to the final.
"I would really like to get under that 1:07 mark. That will be the goal for (Tuesday). Still I got the nerves out of the way and accomplished what I wanted," Tyler said. "Being beside Rebecca didn't affect my race strategy that much but you have to be aware of how fast she goes out."
Soni was less than half a second off Jessica Hardy's world record time of 1:04.45 set in 2009. In Tuesday's final, Soni has a decent chance of becoming the first swimmer to break a long-course record since the return to textile suits.
"I know she's going to do a very quick time and I'm very well prepared for that," Jones said. "She's going to be extremely tough to beat."
Meanwhile, Sinead Russell of Oakville, Ont., lowered her Canadian record for the second time in the women's 100 backstroke semifinal, clocking in at 59.68 seconds for the fifth fastest qualifying time for Tuesday's final.
Natalie Coughlin of the U.S. had the best time with 59.38 seconds.
Russell's time bettered her Canadian record of 59.80 set in the morning preliminaries when she ranked second.
"I'm really happy about the record," said Russell, 18. "I just wanted to go race my heat, I didn't expect to beat the time again. The key is to work on me and not everyone else around me. My goal in the final is to make top-five which would pre qualify me for the Olympics."
Canada's Wilkinson was 13th and didn't advance.