SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ Inge de Bruijn, pursuing her third swimming gold medal, set an Olympic record in the 50-meter freestyle at 24.46 seconds, beating out Americans Dara Torres and Amy Van Dyken.

De Bruijn, who already won the 100 butterfly and 100 freestyle, beat the 8-year-old Olympic mark of 24.79, set by China's Yang Wenyi.

Torres, the 33-year-old from Beverly Hills, Calif, ignored a sore shoulder to touch second in 24.96. Van Dyken, the 1996 Olympic champion in the event, was third at 25.04.

The top 16 advanced to the evening semifinals, with the final Saturday.

``I'm actually doing pretty good,'' said Torres, competing in her third individual event after winning bronze in both the 100 butterfly and 100 freestyle. ``I wanted to break 25 seconds. I know I'm going to get faster.''

Van Dyken, 27, of Englewood, Colo., won four gold medals in the 1996 Atlanta Games, including the 50 freestyle in a major upset over the then-powerful Chinese team.

Since then, Van Dyken has undergone two shoulder operations. She wasn't even sure if she would attend the Olympic trials, but recovered quickly enough to make the team.

Now, she's in position for another medal.

``It's probably going to take a world record to win it,'' Van Dyken said. ``I didn't think that coming in, but Inge is swimming fast.''

Can the Flying Dutchwoman be defeated?

``Yes,'' Van Dyken replied without any hesitation.

The 50 freestyle is the only individual event for Van Dyken at what is likely her final Olympics. She also was part of the world record-setting team in the 400 freestyle relay.

``If I start thinking about that, I'll get all emotional,'' Van Dyken said. ``You've got to go out there and swim like you're going to be swimming for the next 10 years.''

De Bruijn is swimming like that, already assured of being an Olympic star no matter what happens in her last individual event.

``I'm just having fun,'' she said. ``I feel on top of the world, really confident and comfortable. It feels like I am in a dream.''

Kieren Perkins must know the feeling. Written off before the Olympics, he began pursuit of an unprecedented third straight victory in the 1,500 freestyle with a stunning time in the preliminaries.

The 27-year-old Aussie was top qualifier in 14 minutes, 58.34 seconds, pounding the water and thrusting an arm skyward as the sellout crowd at the Sydney International Aquatic Center roared.

Perkins has struggled leading up to the Olympics, much as he did before winning gold at the Atlanta Games. He's one of only three men to pull off the back-to-back 1,500 double.

Erik Vendt, 19, of North Easton, Mass., was second in 15:05.11, with Australian Grant Hackett third at 15:07.50. The Aussies are trying to go 1-2 in 1,500 for the third straight Olympics.

Vendt, who became the first American to break 15 minutes at the Olympic trials, was among those amazed by Perkins' performance.

``It was kind of demoralizing,'' Vendt said. ``But I definitely feel I can come back faster.''

Chris Thompson, 21, of Roseburg, Ore., also made Saturday's final, qualifying sixth at 15:11.21.

The United States has failed to win a medal in the event since 1984, when Mike O'Brien and George DiCarlo went 1-2 at Los Angeles. No American even advanced to the final four years ago.

Other prelims were held Friday (Thursday night EDT) in the 400 medley relay for men and women.

Heading into the final two days of the swimming competition, the Americans led with nine gold medals and 25 overall. The Australians were next with 12 medals and just four golds.

The Americans were in good position to pick up more medals Friday night. Brooke Bennett was the top qualifier in the 800 freestyle, an event she won in Atlanta four years ago. Gary Hall Jr. of Phoenix qualified fastest in the 50 freestyle semifinal.