Men's 50-Meter Freestyle Preview: 2012 Olympic Games

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The men's 50-meter freestyle is one of of the most exciting swimming events of the Olympic Games. Here's what (and who) to watch for come the 2012 Olympic Games:

Men's 50-Meter Freestyle Preview

Brazilian César: Cielo is the defending Olympic champion in the 50-meter freestyle. With a time of 20.91, the 25-year-old also is the world record holder. He's won the 50-meter freestyle at the last two world championship meets, and he'll be looking for more hardware when the 2012 Olympic Games open.

American Nathan: Adrian will be looking to knock Cielo off the top of the podium, though. You may remember Adrian as the swimmer who defeated Michael Phelps, despite ripping his swimsuit on the block. Adrian defeated Cielo at the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships, and he'll be looking to avenge a fourth-place finish from the 2011 FINA World Championships. Adrian tasted gold as a member of the 4x100-meter freestyle relay in Beijing, and this time, the 23-year-old will be aiming for a gold medal all his own -- that is, if he qualifies for the team. The U.S. has not yet held Olympic Trials, and Adrian must finish among the top two at trials to swim the event in London.

James Magnussen: Magnussen, nicknamed "The Missile," will be the favorite in the men's 100-meter freestyle, but some question whether the Australian has the front-half speed to compete with the likes of Cielo and Adrian. Will the young 21-year-old surprise everyone with his performance, or will the 100-meter freestyle be a better bet for Magnussen? Magnussen has yet to win a 50-meter freestyle medal at a major international event. Will London be Magnussen's breakout performance? We will have to wait and see.

The X-Factors: Brazilian Bruno Fratus has had several impressive swims during the past year. He finished fifth at the 2011 World Championships, just three hundredths of a second behind Adrian. Fratus also finished second at the 2011 Pan American Games, finishing nearly half of a second behind Cielo.

The USA Today Olympic Medal Tracker, which uses past performances to project the medal winners at the 2012 Olympic Games, has Fratus finishing in seventh, though at least two of those ranked ahead of him have failed to qualify for the Olympic Games.

When the 2012 Olympic Games begin, Canadian Brent Hayden and Italian Luca Dotto also could have an impact on the men's 50-meter freestyle finals.

Read more from this contributor: The Last Five Olympic Winners of the 50-Meter Freestyle

Sandra Johnson was a competitive swimmer for more than 15 years before she began coaching. She is a longtime Olympic fan, and while working for the United States Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs, Colo., she had the opportunity to immerse herself in the Olympic Movement. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraJohnson46

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