Controversial Finish Keeps Defending Olympic Champ Agnel Out of 200 Fr

2016 French Elite Long Course National Championships and Olympic Trials Selection Meet

  • Dates: Tuesday, March 29 – Sunday, April 3, 2016
  • Times: prelims 9:00 am, finals 6:15 pm
  • Location: Montpellier, France (GMT +1, or 6 hours ahead of N.Y., 9 ahead of L.A.)
  • Live results: Available
  • Live streaming: Available on beIN Sports
  • Championship Central

No one said it would be easy.

When the French Swimming Federation (FFN) released its draconian time standards for qualifying to make the Olympic Games in Rio, some coaches and swimmers welcomed the challenge, other railed against it. But everyone knew what the new standards were, and coaches went about designing their programs to put their athletes in position to make the cuts.

Then came 2016 French Nationals and Olympic Trials and the harsh reality came down on everyone like a ton of bricks. From the very first event, a pall of disappointment hung over the Antigone pool in Montpellier. It was the men’s 1500 free, and top-seeded Damien Joly missed the Rio cut by 2.23 seconds, and even though he had already been under the French standard this season and was 15 seconds under the FINA A cut, he missed his opportunity to punch the first French ticket for Rio. It was as if the air had been sucked from the aquatic center; everyone shared in the disappointment. The same scenario played out in the next event, where Lara Grangeon broke the French national record in the 400 IM with 4:36.61 but fell 1.2 seconds short of the French Rio cut of 4:35.40.

In today’s 200 free final, however, it was a full-on theater of the absurd. Defending Olympic champion in the distance, Mulhouse’s Yannick Agnel, and converted-backstroker Jérémy Stravius of Amiens were the heavy favorites in a tight final in which any one of about five or six athletes could have conceivably earned a bid to Rio. The final was a three-man race, however, with Agnel taking it out fast and Stravius blasting a 26.7 over the final 50 to get the win. Agnel was very clearly second to the wall. He touched a full head-and-shoulders ahead of Jordan Pothain of Nautic Club Alp’38; everyone saw it. But when the results were posted, it read Stravius 1:46.18 – Pothain 1:46.81 – Agnel 1:46.99. Just as he had done in prelims, Agnel touched the pad too low and his time didn’t register at the finish. After his morning swim, however, the officials compared pad time to backup times and awarded him the faster of the two. After some 20 minutes of discussion, in which both Agnel’s coach Lionel Horter, and the FFN’s Technical Director, Jacques Favre, were seen at the officials’ table, the pad results were made official and Agnel was third.

Adding to the controversy was the fact that ALL THREE of the finishers, as well as fourth-place Lorys Bourelly of Toulouse, came in under the FINA A standard of 1:47.97 but missed France’s tougher mark of 1:46.06. Technically that means not one of them will compete in the event at the Olympics. Stravius’ time was fourth in the world so far this season, and all three were top-ten.

Favre has the ability to add 6 male and 6 female swimmers to France’s roster at the conclusion of the meet, but the controversy that swirls overhead has put a pall on the entire meet, and we’re only two days in.

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6 years ago

As I commented above: aren’t there Order of Finish officials at these meets? Among the 55 officials we had at our long course sectionals (true story!!), we always had an OOF official or two at the finish wall. Someone please tell me FINA and FFN have an official for OOF. I hope after that Lance Larson fiasco in 1960 that FINA didn’t do away with OOF. There has to be some protection for the swimmers.

C'est La Vie
6 years ago

Only the French could muck things up this bad. Lets not send anyone to Rio!

6 years ago

Can they give the French swimmers the Polyurethane suits so they can actually qualify?

6 years ago

The French Federation got really confused. These are the qualifying times for Rome 2009.

6 years ago

French swimming federation officials have the deserved reputation of screwing up big time when the damage potential is greatest. This mess at the 200 men finish is not surprising and in line with tradition. “Greatest” foul-up remains their very last minute change in the swimming order in the 4×100 free relay in London when they told their swimmers about it on deck…

We can expect more bundling before this meet is over.

Reply to  Crawler
6 years ago

But France won that relay?

6 years ago

Get the Hola plug in for chrome and you can switch your country to France and watch the video.

Agnel was a shoulder ahead of the other guy when they came to the wall. Absolutely embarrassing for French federation.

Joel Lin
6 years ago

This is a goofy thing to suggest, but can he lodge some dispute because of the faulty time pad and be able to do a time trial? Too bad the 1500 is burned and the 800 won’t be swum or he could go for 200 time then float the rest.

About Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant is the mother of four daughters, all of whom swam in college. With an undergraduate degree from Princeton (where she was an all-Ivy tennis player) and an MBA from INSEAD, she worked for many years in the financial industry, both in France and the U.S. Anne is currently …

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