Gauging the Impact of the Stringent French Qualifying Times for Worlds

2019 French Elite National Championships – 50M

At the conclusion of Sunday night’s final session at the 2019 French Elite Nationals in Rennes, the French Federation (FFN) announced that 11 athletes had been selected to the roster for 2019 FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea. Three had already prequalified by virtue of their medal-winning performances at 2018 European Championships (Charlotte Bonnet, Fantine Lesaffre, and Mehdy Metella) and eight were added during the course of the national selection meet (Béryl Gastaldello, Marie Wattel, David Aubry, Maxime Grousset, Damien Joly, Clément Mignon, Tom Paco Pedroni, and Jérémy Stravius).

The French qualifying standards were stringent. To make the Worlds roster, swimmers needed to achieve a time in prelims that was, on average 0.56% faster for the women and 0.59% faster for the men, than the FINA “A” standards for each event. Then they had to finish in either first or second in finals.

For the relays, add-up times were based on prelims performances. And the relays for which an individual was prequalified for Worlds (i.e. women’s 4×100 and 4×200 free and men’s 4×100 free) had to use the add-up times of the 2nd through 5th finishers in prelims, rather than the times of the top four.

There were several near-misses during the week, but the National Technical Director, Julien Issoulié, was intractable. When the women failed to qualify a 4×100 free relay, although they won gold in Glasgow with 3:34.65, he said at the press conference, “We have chosen to apply a criterion that has been carefully considered. The logic for the relay is identical to that of the individual events. Going forward, what interests me is knowing what we will put in place so that our women swim faster and no longer find themselves in this kind of situation. That is the question we asked ourselves because it’s not about the World Championships in Korea, but the Tokyo Games next year.”

What if…

What would the team look like if the rules were simplified to:

Finish first or second in finals with a FINA “A” cut.

Below you have that calculation. The second column contains the 11 swimmers who made the team, by the event for which they were selected. The third column expands the current selection to include those swimmers who hit A cuts in finals. For comparison’s sake, we’ve included the top two finishers in the final of each event with their finals times and prelims times, so you can see why swimmers were selected and why they weren’t.

There are still a couple of tough calls. Samy Helmbacher got an A cut in prelims of the 400 IM, but not in finals, for example, so he didn’t make the list. If we had expanded our simplified qualification rule to include an A cut in either prelims or finals and a top-2 finish, he’d be on our roster. And Maxime Grousset missed the A cut by .03 in finals.

[Nota bene: this is purely an academic exercise. It does not take into account how the swimmers may have performed differently in finals if selections were on the line, or how swimmers may have varied their entries.]

Women French Selection for Worlds Alternative Selection Method 1st French Finals Prelims 2nd French Finals Prelims French QT (in prelims) FINA A FINA B Δ% FFN / FINA
50 free none Charlotte Bonnet Charlotte Bonnet 24.77 25.02 Mélanie Henique 25.05 25.30 24.90 25.04 25.92 -0.56%
100 free Charlotte Bonnet*, Béryl Gastaldello Charlotte Bonnet, Béryl Gastaldello Charlotte Bonnet 53.29 53.63 Béryl Gastaldello 53.84 54.32 54.32 54.49 56.40 -0.31%
200 free Charlotte Bonnet* Charlotte Bonnet, Margaux Fabre Charlotte Bonnet 1:56.57 1:57.54 Margaux Fabre 1:58.86 1:58.54 1:58.03 1:58.66 2:02.81 -0.53%
400 free none none Fantine Lesaffre 4:12.07 4:13.28 Lara Grangeon 4:12.68 4:16.91 4:09.06 4:10.57 4:19.34 -0.60%
800 free none none Lara Grangeon 8:39.44 8:55.14 Aurélie Muller 8:43.84 8:49.87 8:31.29 8:38.56 8:56.71 -1.40%
1500 free none Lara Grangeon Lara Grangeon 16:18.63 16:42.57 Aurélie Muller 16:32.90 16:43.24 16:22.63 16:32.04 17:06.76 -0.95%
50 back none Béryl Gastaldello Béryl Gastaldello 27.98 27.88 Lila Touili 28.37 28.52 27.81 28.22 29.21 -1.45%
100 back Béryl Gastaldello Béryl Gastaldello Béryl Gastaldello 1:00.07 1:00.59 Pauline Mahieu 1:01.71 1:02.33 1:00.42 1:00.59 1:02.71 -0.28%
200 back none none Pauline Mahieu 2:14.15 2:18.58 Lilou Ressencourt 2:14.86 2:16.57 2:10.19 2:11.53 2:16.13 -1.02%
50 breast none none Fanny Deberghes 31.54 31.62 Solène Gallego 31.84 32.32 30.74 31.22 32.31 -1.54%
100 breast none none Fanny Deberghes 1:08.60 1:09.92 Camille Dauba 1:09.28 1:09.47 1:07.33 1:07.43 1:09.79 -0.15%
200 breast none Fanny Deberghes, Camille Dauba Fanny Deberghes 2:25.60 2:28.59 Camille Dauba 2:25.69 2:28.76 2:25.41 2:25.91 2:31.02 -0.34%
50 fly none Marie Wattel, Béryl Gastaldello Marie Wattel 25.90 26.07 Béryl Gastaldello 26.05 26.14 25.82 26.34 27.26 -1.97%
100 fly Béryl Gastaldello, Marie Wattel Béryl Gastaldello, Marie Wattel Béryl Gastaldello 57.69 58.46 Marie Wattel 58.00 57.81 58.30 58.48 1:00.53 -0.31%
200 fly none none Lara Grangeon 2:09.50 2:12.50 Camille Cottier 2:14.70 2:14.51 2:09.13 2:09.21 2:13.73 -0.06%
200 IM none Fantine Lesaffre Fantine Lesaffre 2:11.70 2:14.62 Cyrielle Duhamel 2:14.12 2:14.20 2:12.58 2:13.03 2:17.69 -0.34%
400 IM Fantine Lesaffre Fantine Lesaffre, Lara Grangeon Fantine Lesaffre 4:37.74 4:40.59 Lara Grangeon 4:41.21 4:53.53 4:39.59 4:43.06 4:52.97 -1.23%
4×100 free none Charlotte Bonnet, Béryl Gastaldello, Marie Wattel, Lena Bousquin Top 4 finishers 3:35.87 3:37.06 3:38.24
4×100 medley none none 3:59.96 4:01.05 3:59.24
4×200 free none Charlotte Bonnet, Margaux Fabre, Joana Desbordes, Assia Touati Top 4 finishers 7:54.83 7:56.97 7:56.24


Men French Selection for Worlds Alternative Selection Method 1st French Finals Prelims 2nd French Finals Prelims French QT (in prelims) FINA A FINA B Δ% FFN / FINA
50 free none Clément Mignon Clément Mignon 21.93 22.06 Maxime Grousset 22.21 22.47 22.05 22.18 22.96 -0.59%
100 free Mehdy Metella*, Clément Mignon Mehdy Metella, Clément Mignon Mehdy Metella 48.27 48.58 Clément Mignon 48.54 48.49 48.73 48.80 50.51 -0.14%
200 free none Jordan Pothain Jordan Pothain 1:47.33 1:48.15 Roman Fuchs 1:48.63 1:48.89 1:47.11 1:47.40 1:51.16 -0.27%
400 free none David Aubry David Aubry 3:47.06 3:50.59 Joris Bouchaut 3:49.23 3:51.05 3:47.05 3:48.15 3:56.14 -0.48%
800 free none David Aubry, Marc-Antoine Olivier David Aubry 7:46.30 7:51.82 Marc-Antoine Olivier 7:53.12 8:00.07 7:51.06 7:54.31 8:10.91 -0.69%
1500 free David Aubry, Damien Joly David Aubry, Damien Joly David Aubry 14:57.56 14:54.42 Damien Joly 14:58.15 14:56.96 14:59.18 15:07.38 15:39.14 -0.90%
50 back Jérémy Stravius Jérémy Stravius Jérémy Stravius 24.92 24.65 Stanislaus Huille 25.33 25.51 24.89 25.17 26.05 -1.11%
100 back none none Yohann Ndoye Brouard 54.50 54.24 Stanislaus Huille 54.67 54.62 54.06 54.06 55.95 0.00%
200 back none none Geoffroy Mathieu 1:58.86 1:58.95 Antoine Herlem 2:00.62 2:02.31 1:58.00 1:58.34 2:02.48 -0.29%
50 breast none none Théo Bussière 27.62 27.85 Clément Mignon 28.05 27.93 27.08 27.39 28.35 -1.13%
100 breast none none Théo Bussière 1:00.31 1:00.70 Antoine Viquerat 1:01.38 1:01.16 59.90 59.95 1:02.05 -0.08%
200 breast none none Antoine Marc 2:12.08 2:13.30 Antoine Viquerat 2:12.52 2:12.74 2:10.41 2:11.00 2:15.59 -0.45%
50 fly none Mehdy Metella, Jérémy Stravius Mehdy Metella 23.56 23.59 Jérémy Stravius 23.58 23.81 23.30 23.66 24.49 -1.52%
100 fly Mehdy Metella* Mehdy Metella Mehdy Metella 50.58 51.51 Jérémy Stravius 52.05 52.00 51.81 51.96 53.78 -0.29%
200 fly none none Léon Marchand 1:58.60 1:59.98 Matthias Marsau 1:59.20 1:59.70 1:56.43 1:56.71 2:00.80 -0.24%
200 IM none none Samy Helmbacher 2:00.38 2:00.63 Clément Bidard 2:00.90 2:02.24 1:59.65 2:00.22 2:04.43 -0.47%
400 IM none none Samy Helmbacher 4:18.17 4:17.78 Antoine Marc 4:18.43 4:21.27 4:16.10 4:17.90 4:26.93 -0.70%
4×100 free Clément Mignon, Mehdy Metella, Tom Paco Pedroni, Jérémy Stravius, Maxime Grousset Clément Mignon, Mehdy Metella, Tom Paco Pedroni, Jérémy Stravius, Maxime Grousset Top 4 finishers 3:14.33 3:14.30 3:15.52
4×100 medley none Yohann Ndoye Brouard, Théo Bussière, Mehdy Metella, Clément Mignon Top 4 finishers 3:34.05 3:34.94 3:34.09
4×200 free none none 7:14.66 7:14.65 7:11.37

*pre-qualified for the event at 2018 European Championships.


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2 years ago

“Going forward, what interests me is knowing what we will put in place so that our women swim faster and no longer find themselves in this kind of situation. That is the question we asked ourselves because it’s not about the World Championships in Korea, but the Tokyo Games next year.”

As you can see, the obvious way to prepare swimmers for Tokyo 2020 is to prevent them from competing at the second highest level international meet so that they won’t be prepared to compete at the olympics the next year. Instead, they should be at home, thinking about what they’ve done, because a Fina A cut is obviously an easy standard for anyone to achieve and in no way… Read more »

2 years ago

If someone made their hard cut and make FINA A cut in something else, can they swim that other event?

2 years ago


2 years ago

Less competition from the french and brits with their stupid qualification criteria means more golds for the USA. Keep it up frenchy and brits.

Reply to  Snarky
2 years ago

Bored of saying this. Other countries have to create pressure on swimmers in different ways than the yanks.

Reply to  Bob
2 years ago

Why does someone have to create pressured beyond the FINA A cut? I have been around swimming for a long time and we aren’t inundated with stories of swimmers that don’t care. The competition is pretty pressure filled. Have these countries found some way to produce best times at higher rates than the USA at major meets?

bobo gigi
2 years ago

No more tourists!

Reply to  bobo gigi
2 years ago

FINA “A” cut isn’t window-shopping.

Reply to  bobo gigi
2 years ago

If every country adopted the position that there should be no ‘tourists’, most of the 150 or so member nations of FINA would not send a single swimmer while even the stronger nations would send only a handful. There would be so few swimmers that individual events would consist of two semi-finals followed by a final and in relays there would be something like 10 or 12 teams battling it out for the eight spots in the final. Wow! What a spectacle that would be! I can’t wait for the day to arrive!

Reply to  straightblackline
2 years ago

It is nearly that already regarding relays

Reply to  Tim
2 years ago

Relays are very different from individual races. Perhaps mixed could change it a little bit in some countries, but I’m not so sure.

Reply to  straightblackline
2 years ago

I thought about this. What France is doing (Bobo told us) or GB, or Brazil (50 metres), etc. could be very dangerous to our beloved sport. Not only presently but for the future, too.
Parents will think about changing the blue water to the green grass and will sign their children in e.g PSG, any PL, or South American soccer academy because what the kids could be achieve in theese circumstancies in swimming.

Reply to  bobo gigi
2 years ago

“That’s all what I can say about war in Vietnam” – Forrest Gump.
Welcome back Bobo. Millions of Swimswam’s readers are waiting to hear from you about state of affairs in French swimming.

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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