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.