France Releases (Very Fast) Selection Standards for Rio 2016

On Thursday the French Federation (FFN) released the criteria by which it plans to select a team to represent the Tricolor at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. And they weren’t playing around.

Apparently following the “Build it and they will come” philosophy, the FFN tightened their standards on every single event, and by a considerable amount. In 2012 the Federation had a multi-tiered approach, in which swimmers had to perform to minimum standards in heats, in semi-finals, and then in finals at their qualifying meet, the Elite Nationals at Dunkerque in March of 2012. However, in the end, the swims required in finals were exactly FINA’s “A” standards for London.

Four years later, the FFN has taken a very different approach. While the selection criteria are less complicated, the standards are much, much faster: the French men’s times are around 2% faster than FINA’s “A” standards for Rio, while the women’s times are 2-3% faster. The swimmers must achieve these times in finals at the Elite National Championships in Montpellier (March 29-April 3, 2016).

It is interesting to note that, with only a few exceptions (men’s 100 and 200 breast, and 200 fly), the FFN has set the bar at a level that would have made finals in London. In the spreadsheet below, column J indicates the 8th place time out of semi-finals in London; in other words, the time it took to make finals. Column K compares the French 2016 Rio standard to the London final cut-off.

The other thing worth pointing out is that, in seven events (women’s 50 free, 100 back, 100 and 200 breast, and 400 IM, and men’s 200 back and 400 IM), these new French qualifying times are faster than the current French National Records “RF” as shown in column I.

One can’t help but wonder if this is the FFN’s wish list. There was a lot of discussion in France this summer after Kazan, where the French women’s team didn’t live up to expectations. After an outstanding collective performance at their selection meet, the Elite Nationals in Limoges last April, “les Bleues” fell flat in Kazan. In a post-Kazan interview with Agence France-Presse, Fabrice Pellerin, the national women’s team director, expressed frustration that while the French women swam well in heats and semis, they were not at the same level as their international counterparts when it came time to making the finals. He suggested setting qualifying standards at a level that corresponds to a potential medalist. “If (next time) we take 8 or 10 swimmers, half men, half women, who have met a more restrictive criteria, these will be 10 swimmers who could potentially medal. It’s a philosophy, but it’s not up to me to put it into practice.”

A month later, it looks as though the FFN has adopted this philosophy. They have given themselves a back door, however. As a second step, the National Technical Director (DTN) has the right to add up to 6 men and 6 women to the team, as long as they make the FINA “A” standard in Montpellier.

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5 years ago

2-3% faster than Fina “A” standard is just a bit too draconian mes amis. When did the pendulum swing so far the other way? One by one there’s an ongoing trend among leading swimming (GBR, GER, AUS) nations away from allowing the swimmer who finishes 1st at oly trials with a Fina B time or the poor schmuck who finished in 2nd with a fina A time to compete in Rio. We all understand that countries want to keep their “tourists” home but these times just seem a bit too draconian.

5 years ago

Interesting set of times. FRA generally doesn’t set out to field a full team therefore minimising their “tourist” quota.

AUS has already released their qualifying times for Rio (as yet not reported in any media). The French standards are generally tougher with the exception of: W50FS, W200BRS, M100BRS, M200BRS, M100FLY although in most cases the differences are rarely more than 0.2-0.3sec.

5 years ago

The men have not been strong in non freestyle event over 100 or in freestyle over a 200. They might have a small sprint team.

5 years ago

wow, the countries that don’t need tough qualifying times are adding them where as countries that do(cough cough usa cough cough) aren’t.

Sean Justice
Reply to  ok
5 years ago

Why would the US need qualifying times? The winning times at trails are usually fast enough that there is not a need for qualifying times.

bobo gigi
Reply to  Sean Justice
5 years ago

Sean, do you really think the US times in the women’s sprint are enough to medal?

bobo gigi
Reply to  bobo gigi
5 years ago

USA has plenty of girls in 53 high/54 low in the 100 free. Yes.
But these times were enough 10 years ago.
It’s not the case anymore.
The top world level is right now under 53 for a few years now.
The gold in Rio will be in about 52.30/52.50.
And the best American was in 53.66 this summer.
Raise the bar! If not, you will continue to be in the second division of women’s sprint for a long time.
Are you happy with the following facts? Last US female world champion in 1998. Last US female olympic champion in 1984. Last US women’s relay olympic champion in 2000.

Jeff Kuta
Reply to  bobo gigi
5 years ago

I think most Americans are OK with winning 40%-50% of all events. Better to have a broad range of strengths than fail at your specialty…after taking smack.

/Lezak 4evar

5 years ago

We are doing fine with our system in the US. It is what encourages such a large base compared to other nations.

Reply to  CoachGB
5 years ago

large base, you have bit more people living there most nations? It has nothing do with your system

Reply to  CoachGB
5 years ago

Well, we aren’t being the old usa in some events, and while im all for young talent, thirteen year olds who have no chance at the trails shouldn’t qualifying, I think the times for Nationals should be low for everyone who can qualifying, but the trails is it’s own Olympics and they need to enf

5 years ago

Excessively tough on both sides. 24.57 for the women’s 50?!? That’s under their national record!

bobo gigi
5 years ago

I gave the news 2 or 3 days ago on swimswam and I agree 100% with that approach.
We did the same after the disastrous 1996 and 2000 olympic games.
In 2001 very tough qualifying times were required to go to Fukuoka and we only sent 6 or 7 swimmers if I remember well. It was a great eye-opener for everyone. The coaches and the athletes have all raised the bar then and French swimming overall has much improved.
They should have done that since 2013 to wake up our girls. Maybe it’s too late for 2016 but it will be at least a good wake-up call for some swimmers. I hope they keep these tough standards… Read more »

hoho hihi
5 years ago

I agree with you Bobo!

This is the best approach which will produce very fast swimmers. France men 4×100 free will be very fast and will crush the competition in Rio…CRUSH!

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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