George Bovell is confident a second Olympic medal is within his grasp.
"Of course. Absolutely. Gotta believe it."
The 29-year-old Trinidad and Tobago swimmer booked his men's 50 metres freestyle championship race lane with a sizzling 21.77 seconds semifinal swim, at the Aquatics Centre, here in London, England, yesterday.
Bovell had produced the same time in the morning session to win his preliminary round heat, advancing to the semis as the fastest qualifier. He seized an early advantage in the race, and at the halfway mark was clear of the field. Anthony Ervin battled back, but could not catch his T&T rival, the American touching in 21.83—six-hundredths of a second slower than Bovell's 21.77.
Bovell is the national 50 free record holder at 21.20 seconds. That time, however, was achieved in a polyurethane suit. Such suits have since been banned by the International Swimming Federation (FINA).
Yesterday's clocking is the best time ever produced by Bovell in a textile suit.
"My form is looking good," he told the Express, after his opening round swim. "The best time in my career. But you got to keep in mind this is just a qualification for the semifinal. In the big picture, it means nothing. It's three battles to victory—one at a time."
Bovell successfully negotiated battle number two, the 21.77 swim earning him second spot in the second semifinal, behind Brazilian Bruno Fratus (21.63) and ahead of France's Florent Manaudou (21.80).
"Some things were really great," said Bovell, after the semis. "My stroke looked good, I felt good, but my dive wasn't as powerful as this morning. Honestly, tonight felt easier. I wasn't as tired at the end. I think I can get down to 21.5."
He might even have to go faster to challenge for the top spot in today's final.
In the opening semifinal, American Cullen Jones and Brazil's reigning Olympic champion Cesar Cielo were joint first, both swimmers touching the wall in 21.54 seconds. Ervin, who shared Olympic gold with his teammate Gary Hall Jr at the 2000 Sydney Games, copped third spot in 21.62.
Bovell was fifth fastest in the semis—a result he is familiar with. At the 2004 Athens Games, he was fifth best in the semifinal round of the 200m individual medley. In the final, though, he stepped up his game, finishing third to become the first ever T&T swimmer to climb an Olympic podium.
Bovell is certain history can repeat itself in today's 3.09 p.m. (T&T time) final.
"I'm here to do my best, and I wouldn't still be in the sport if I didn't think I had a chance to medal."
On Sunday, Bovell finished first in his heat and 29th overall in the 100m backstroke in 55.22 seconds—a new national record. He was scheduled to swim again on Tuesday, in the 100 free heats, but decided to skip the event.
"I'm a medal contender in the 50 freestyle. The 100 freestyle, a great swim takes me into a semifinal, but I don't believe I could have gone any further. We're here to get medals. If we have a chance to get a medal, do everything we can, so I pulled out of the hundred. Two 100 swims would have taken its toll on me physically."
In today's 50 free championship race, the 2004 200m IM bronze medallist will swim in lane two.
"We're sitting really good right now. I didn't want to be in the middle of the pool. My dive is one of the better dives, and if I pull up ahead, moving at this speed, people can actually draught off of me. For the first part of the race, hopefully I won't be pulling anybody."
What is certain is that Bovell will push his body to the limit in a bid to double his Olympic medal collection.
Editor's Note: Viewers can
witness George Bovell going
for his second Olympic medal
TV6 at 3.09 p.m. today.