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NEWS FEATURE Steffen prepares for Campbell to snatch her 50m freestyle record By Christian Kunz and Marc Zeilhofer, dpa

Europe
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Germany‘s Britta Steffen has held the world freestyle record over 50 metres for seven years but fears its days may be numbered.

Rio de Janeiro (dpa) - Germany‘s Britta Steffen has been world record holder in the women‘s 50-metre freestyle for seven years - but believes Australia‘s Cate Campbell is about to take her crown at the Olympics in Rio.

"I will definitely watch the 50m freestyle," Steffen told dpa before the Games. "I still hold the world record but I think its days are numbered."

Steffen made her own mark at the Olympics in 2008 by winning the 50m and 100m freestyle in Beijing before completing the same double at the 2009 worlds in Rome. She completed the 50m in 23.73 seconds to set a world record in the Italian capital which still stands.

Campbell has already set the world record over 100m this year and could claim her first individual gold of the Games in that discipline Thursday.

The 24-year-old Australian will then return to the pool the 50m heats and semis Friday with the final set for the conclusion of the swimming programme on Saturday.

"If Cate wins the 100m free, the 50m world record will definitely be beaten cause she will be so mentally strong that she can do it," Steffen said. "She has the ability its only the matter of time, and if it happens all you can say is ‘great athlete‘. That‘s what we are here for."

Campbell is not a certainty in the 50m though as her sister Bronte, the reigning world champion, Dutch Olympic champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Sweden‘s butterfly specialist Sarah Sjostrom will all provide stiff competition.

And over such a short distance, there is really no room for error.

"The 50m frees are something really special," Steffen explained. "The start has to be perfect, the butterfly kick with the legs must be perfect as well and the transition to the swimming movement must be optimal.

"If you stop a kick too early and are a little too deep in the water you lose swimming speed. It must be a completely automated race which requires absolute attention and concentration ahead of it.

"I believe you need a lot of mental training and keep this up this for 23 or 24 seconds."

The dash over 50m, to the outsider, often looks like the elite swimming equivalent of a bar-room brawl - arms and legs thrash furiously, lost in the wake of splashes unseen in the longer events which require smoother rhythm.

But Steffen says there remains an elegance amongst the strength on show.

"You must be spot on with the 40 strokes and finish with the 40th stroke, that was the case with me," she said. "The girls can all do it but it is not always the best who one wins but the one that has the best race.

"I never breathed but most breath once. For me that means getting out of the movement and a few hundredths can decide between a medal and fourth place. It‘s good if you don‘t breathe."

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