THE MAN:

Yannick Agnel

THE EVENT:

The 2012 London Olympic 4×100 freestyle relay

THE BACKSTORY: 

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.

HOW HE DID IT — THE MOMENT – THE 2012 OLYMPIC 4×100 FREESTYLE RELAY:

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

THE AFTERMATH:

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.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

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.

VIDEO PREVIEW OF TEAM USA DISCUSSING THEIR MEDAL CHANCES IN THE 4×100 FREE RELAY:

VIDEO PREVIEW WITH MATT TARGETT, A SOBER OUTLOOK ON AUSTRALIA’S CHANCES IN LONDON:

VIDEO OF THE 2012 OLYMPIC 4×100 FREE RELAY:

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