Clutch Swim 2012 Swammy Winner, Yannick Agnel


Yannick Agnel


The 2012 London Olympic 4×100 freestyle relay


Yannick Agnel, 3-time Olympic medalist & epic relay closer

Yannick Agnel, 3-time Olympic medalist

At 6 feet 8 inches tall and 179 pounds, long and sinewy, all jutting joints and tendons, the Frenchman from Nimes was still a French boy, only 20 years old, when stepped on deck at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Two years before, 2010, Yannick Agnel revealed glimmers of speed and promise, breaking French records in the 200 and 400 meters freestyle. Last year, at the 2011 FINA World Championships in Shanghai, Agnel merely collected preverbal wooden medals for 5th and 6th place finishes in the 200 and 400 freestyle.


At the London 2012 Summer Olympics, the Aussie 4×100 freestyle relay came in hyped, favored to top Team USA. The French 4×100 contingent was in the hunt, but not a betting man’s choice. Historically, this event has been a bragging rights signpost of swimming power, a rally cry of success for countries. The Aussie’s smashed Team USA’s guitars in 2000. South Africa dominated in 2004. The French licked their wounds after Alain Bernard got reeled in by The Legend, Jason Lezak, in 2008. The 2012 4×100 free relay was eagerly anticipated.

The Aussies, lead by James “The Missle” Magnussen, did not get a “missle” leadoff leg on the 4×100 relay. Team USA’s Nathan Adrian clipped Maggie by .14. Knocked off their center of balance, the Aussies never really recovered, and the relay become a two country race between Team USA and the French. Team USA built their margin to a .55 lead by the time Ryan Lochte flew from the blocks to anchor. France’s Agnel followed, closing the margin to .3 by the turn, but Lochte hammered him off the wall with his underwater dolphin kicks, regaining the difference. Agnel, breathing away from Lochte, swim his own race, using his 200 and 400 free background to close in the biggest clutch moment of the year! Agnel delivered France the gold with a 46.74 anchor split (the only man under 47 in the entire field) beating Team USA by .45.

FRANCE:        3:09.93

TEAM USA:   3:10.38


Lochte, 11-time Olympic medalist

Lochte, 11-time Olympic medalist

Despite Lochte’s stunning win on the opening night of the competition in the 400 IM, he was visibily shaken by the loss. Lochte struggled through the rest of his Olympic schedule, winning Olympic hardware, though not gold as expected in certain events, namely the 200 backstroke.

Magnussen’s lackluster relay leadoff resulted in a firestorm of negative press down under. Maggie followed up with an impressive 100 meter freestyle final, but it was not enough to holdoff Team USA’s Nathan Adrian.

Agnel, who delivered France ample payback from the their loss to Lezak in the 2008 4×100, went on to win gold in the 200 freestyle and silver in the 4×200 freestyle relay. At only 20, yes, still a boy, Agnel is positioned to be a global swim star from 2013-2016.


The hardest working man in the sport of swimming, Tyler Clary, plays second fiddle for years to Ryan Lochte in the 200 backstroke, but wins when it counts in London, defeating the Olympic defending champion. Tyler = respect.
Betsy Webb deserves space among the greats in 2012 for her anchor leg on Stanford’s 200 free relay at NCAA’s. A big anchor leg overtook the Cal women for the NCAA title. She had another huge anchor on the 400 free relay, taking the Stanford women to a new American Record by fighting off two of the best anchor swims in history from Auburn’s Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace and Georgia’s Megan Romano.
Tom Shields’ butterfly leg on the 400 medley relay at the FINA Short Course Worlds deserves mention. Shields has long been considered a seasonal, NCAA star, a man unconcerned about the world beyond his Cal campus. This past summer he nearly made the Olympic Team. This fall he went toe-t0-toe with the best at the FINA World Cup, then turned around and delivered  a monster butterfly leg on the men’s 4×100 medley relay.  Shields’ split was 1.5 seconds faster than all flyers, and his leg delivered Team USA the gold.





  1. Philip Johnson says:

    Agnel’s 200 free could go on there as a clutch swim as well. to go out there and race the way he did against that deep field was incredible. not only did he win, but he dominated from start to finish. he made veterans like Lochte, Park, and Sun look like boys, very impressive to watch

    • bobo gigi says:

      And I can talk about Katie Ledecky in the 800 free. I believe many swimming fans have been amazed by her race. And I could also talk about Allison Schmitt in the 200 free. I have yesterday again watched her race and I think her swim has been very underrated. It’s one of the most dominant races in history. She has swum a wonderful time, the second best of all time just only behind the world record made in a magical suit. She has demolished the field and has won with a margin of 1.97s over the second place! And behind her there were Camille Muffat, Missy Franklin or Federica Pellegrini! Yannick Agnel and Allison Schmitt have swum 2 incredible races in the 200 free.

  2. Chester Copperpot says:

    Are we really going to go so far as to call “Tyler Clary” the hardest working man in the sport of swimming? Is that like some overwhelmingly held opinion I don’t know about? I’m sure he works hard, but the single hardest worker in the sport???? yikes….

    • Jswim1 says:

      It’s a joke referring to Tyler’s comment about how phelps doesn’t work hard

    • Rafael says:

      even the hardest working swimmer I think it is a bit too much.. Hackett is probably much more a hard worker than him.. on all sports.. if you check how workaholic guys like shumacher zanardi senna oscar schmidt jordan were..

  3. Phelps’s split on that same relay deserves a grt mention too …….

  4. bobo gigi says:

    It’s clear that Ryan wasn’t the same swimmer after the relay anymore. He has received a hammer blow on his head. I hope he doesn’t have nightmares because of that race anymore.

  5. bobo gigi says:

    For your information, Yannick Agnel is also an intellectual. He likes philosophy and he likes to read many books.

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Mel Stewart, aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, and USA Swimming. Mel has also worked as an Olympic analyst for ABC, NBC, EPSN, FOX SPORTS and TBS. At SwimSwam.com, Mel hosts Gold Medal Minute presented by SwimOutlet.com, a weekly report featuring the world’s fastest swimmers and Olympic medalists. Read More »