ATHENS, Aug 17 (Reuters) - Jason Lezak, fastest man in the world this year, and Ian Crocker were eliminated in the heats of the 100 metres freestyle
on Tuesday, leaving the United States without an Olympic finalist in the event for the first time, barring the boycotted 1980 Moscow Games and an
open-water duel between an Austrian and a Hungarian in 1896.
Lezak, who swam 48.17 in the U.S. Olympic trials, finished fifth in his heat in 49.87, way behind Dutch defending champion Pieter van den Hoogenband,
who led the way into the evening's semi-finals in 48.70.
Crocker, the world 100 metres butterfly champion, was initially listed as 16th equal overall, which would have meant a swim-off for the last
But Trinidad's George Bovell, initially disqualified for an alleged infringement at the start, was reinstated on appeal and moved back in as 12th
overall, which pushed Crocker and Yuriy Yegoshin of Ukraine down to 17th equal and out. Lezak moved down from 20th to 21st.
"It felt fine. I just didn't swim my race smart and I paid for it," Lezak said. "Normally I go out hard and hang on. This time I kind of went out a
little easy, tried to pick it up and that's not how I swim."
U.S. men's head coach Eddie Reese said: "It's not what they wanted, it's not what they expected. It's the worst of all scenarios."
Crocker had been suffering from a sore throat on Sunday when he swam way below form in the 4x100 freestyle relay in which the American favourites
trailed in third behind South Africa and the Netherlands.
"It felt better than the other night, which is a step in the right direction. Everything is just getting better day by day," Crocker said.