NAIROBI, August 15 – Africa 100 metres butterfly record holder Jason Dunford made history on Friday morning when he became the first ever Kenyan to reach an Olympic final in swimming at the ongoing games in Beijing.,
The 21 year old finished third in the men’s 100metres butterfly semifinal behind United States’ multi gold medallist Michael Phelps and Australia’s Andrew Lautertein in 51.33 seconds to make the final as the fifth fastest swimmer in the distance.
Dunford had a great start and led at the half way point but a late surge by the American swimming sensation Phelps overhauled him while Lautertein edged out right at the end.
Dunford will thus line up in Saturday’s final hoping to become the first Kenyan to win a medal in a race where he is currently ranked tenth in the world.
This is his second event at the 2008 Olympics after competing in the 100 metres freestyle earlier in the week. Dunford won his heat but then missed out on a place in the semifinals as he finished 24th overall. He however set a new national record of 49.06.
Dunford bounced back in the 100 metres butterfly heats, smashing winning his heat in a new Olympic record of 51.14 which was also a new African record. But his Olympic mark lasted all of ten minutes as Milorad Cavic of Serbia set a new record of 50.76.
Dunford first burst on to the scene when he became the first Kenyan to ever win a continental swimming medal at the 2006 African swimming championships in Dakar where he won two gold medals, three silvers and one bronze.
The following year, he reached the 100 metres butterfly final at the World Championships in Melbourne setting an African record and also became the first Kenyan to attain qualification for the Olympics.
At the 2007 All-Africa Games Dunford won three gold medals (50 m, 100 m and 200 m butterfly), two silver (50 m freestyle, 100 m backstroke) and three bronze (50 m backstroke, 100 m and 200 m freestyle).
For his efforts at these games and the Melbourne World Championships, Dunford was awarded the Safaricom Sportsman of the Year Award for 2007.