McEvoy assumes favorite role for swimming's signature race

KAZAN, Russia (AP) Two-time defending champion James ''The Missile'' Magnussen is home in Australia recovering from shoulder surgery.

Home favorite Vladimir Morozov of Russia was disqualified for a false start after winning his semifinal heat.

And Olympic champion Nathan Adrian is having trouble with his second lap.

It all adds up to Cameron McEvoy, until now known as ''the other Australian,'' entering the final of swimming's signature race at the world championships Thursday in a new role - as the favorite for the 100-meter freestyle.

''It's a world championship final. A lots on the line and there's a lot of excitement for a 100-meter freestyle,'' McEvoy said after leading the semifinals Wednesday in 47.94 seconds. ''So I know what I've done the past 12 months and it does make me excited to get up and do the final.''

McEvoy was the only man to go under 48 seconds in the semis.

''It's the first time this season, so to do that in the semis is really good,'' he said.

Emerging Chinese swimmer Ning Zetao qualified second in 48.13 and Federico Grabich of Argentina was third in 48.20. Nathan Adrian, an American, was fifth in 48.36.

With the crowd inside the Kazan Arena cheering wildly, Morozov hit the water of the temporary pool too soon.

''When I jumped, I knew it was a false start,'' said the Los Angeles-based Russian, who touched in 48.12. ''I even heard `ooooh' in the air shouted from the stands, right from the start. ... The really painful thing was that I gave it everything and got that kind of result. ... I had the best chance over that distance.''

Despite Morozov's acknowledgment, the Russians filed a protest that was rejected by governing body FINA.

The 21-year-old McEvoy finished fourth at the last worlds two years ago in Barcelona.

''If I remember back to my first international final I got fourth and I was only 0.17 off winning it, so there's no doubt that anyone in the race can do something like that,'' McEvoy said. ''Anyone in this final has the opportunity to step up and win this thing.''

The other qualifiers for the final were Pieter Timmers of Belgium, Marcelo Chierighini of Brazil, Alexander Sukhorukov of Russia and Santo Condorelli of Canada.

Adrian had the fastest split time at the 50-meter mark, turning in 22.45, but he ran out of gas in the second lap.

''Did it look like it? I felt it. There's no doubt,'' Adrian said. ''That last 25 hits like a ton of bricks. I got to probably ease up (in the first 50) a little bit. ... The winners are coming back under 25, so I got to figure out how to do that.''

As far as the numbers go, the world record of 46.91 set by Cesar Cielo in 2009 shouldn't be in danger. That's because the Brazilian's mark was established in a now-banned rubberized suit.

Compared to the imposing Magnussen, who stands 1.97 meters (6-foot-6), or Adrian, who intimidates with his thick torso and muscles, the more compact McEvoy hardly looks like a sprinting threat.

The question now, though, is whether he can hold up in the favorite position.

''I don't look at the race as pressure and stepping up,'' he said. ''I look at it as just trying to get up there and do what I've been practicing to do the last four months and have a best time.''

Magnussen, meanwhile, will be watching from home.

''I've spoken to him a few times,'' McEvoy said. ''The whole team had him on Facetime a few days ago and he wished everyone luck. I know he'll be right behind me, cheering me on tomorrow night.''

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Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf

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