EINDHOVEN, Netherlands -- Frenchman Alain Bernard set a world record for the men's 100 meters freestyle in 47.60sec at the European swimming championships in Eindhoven on Friday.
Bernard has not yet qualified for the Beijing Olympics.
Bernard surpassed the 47.84 of Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband on September 19, 2000 in Sydney, Australia.
Bernard has yet to qualify for the Beijing Olympics but will have his chance at the French championships next month.
After returning 48.70 in the morning heats, Bernard surged ahead over the last 50 meters of the semifinal.
His previous best was 48.12, in June 2007 in Saint Raphael in southern France.
Bernard, from Antibes, said: "I knew I had a great performance in me, but I didn't think I would set it (record) so soon.
"When I looked up and saw I'd broken the record, I couldn't stop shaking. I'm still shaking, it's unbelievable!"
Bernard becomes only the third swimmer to complete the distance in under 48secs, after Van den Hoogenband and Sweden's Stefan Nystrand.
Nystrand, the second swimmer to break the 48-sec barrier, in Paris, was quick with his congratulations.
"It was a great record for him. I really believed he could beat it, but I didn't think he would do it so soon," said the Swede.
Retired French swimmer Franck Esposito believes Bernard is strong enough to go even faster.
"I was sitting on my sofa and he nearly blew me off it. It's stunning," said Esposito.
"He's fought really hard to get where he is, and it just goes to show they are doing some good work down at his club in Antibes.
"I'm convinced Alain can swim in world record time at the Olympics. I think he's capable of swimming even faster."
In the second men's semifinal Fabien Gilot of France won in 48.68.
Bernard and Gilot will now lead France's bid for the men's European title, alongside co-favorites Nystrand, Italian Filippo Magnini and Croatia's Duje Draganja.
Reigning two-time Olympic 100m freestyle champion Van den Hoogenband missed Friday's race having pulled out of the competition because of illness, after failing to qualify from the heats of the 200m freestyle. E-mail to a friend