Explanation of French Olympic Qualifying: Swimmers must ultimately pass under the FINA A-time in finals to earn an individual swim for the 2012 Olympics, but in many events there are certain standards that need to be met in each of the earlier rounds as well, so no loafing through prelims is allowed. Swimmers, even if they don’t hit those intermediary times, can still earn relay swims by winning in finals, where applicable. The French Federation does have the ability to make exceptions, but is generally very strict.
For a full list of French Olympic Qualifying Standards, go to this handbook and scroll to page 3. NL = Freestyle, Dos = Backstroke, Brasse = Breaststroke, Papillon = Butterfly, 4N = IM.
After a snoozer-of-a-session on day 1 at the 2012 French Olympic Trials, the pool really heated up on day 2. That’s a great sign, as there have been a lot of complaints from the swimmers about the venue in Dunkerque. It has only a 25-meter warmup course, is only 2 meters deep (the Olympic standard is generally 3 meters, to redugce wave rebound off of the bottom), only 1,000 in spectator seating and is in a city without a major airport and is difficult to travel to. The French seem to have shaken that off, and were ready to reverse-course on the 2nd day of competition.
Women’s 200 Free – Final
Qualifying Time: 4:09.35
The big earth-shattering time (almost matching the waves of Magnussen’s 100 free in Australia) was a 4:01.13 from Camille Muffat in the women’s 400 free. That’s a new textile-best, and French Record, for her and clears Federica Pellegrini’s 4:01.53 from 2008 (just prior to the polyurethane buzz, as she was wearing an Arena textile suit) as the best ever done not in rubber. Regardless of suit, it’s the 7th-best time ever and makes Muffat herself the 3rd-fastest swimmer on record.
Muffat’s splits: 58.57/1:00.97/1:01.50/1:00.29.
That’s a very classic split pattern for her and puts Pellegrini and Britain’s Rebecca Adlington on notice. Muffat’s now gone two lifetime bests in 2012. Her challenge continues to be peaking at the big meet (her three best times, and 5 of her best 6, have all been at non-World/European Championship meets, where she’d presumably be wanting to go her best. She improved on that trend a bit in 2011, though, and she’s still young enough to not set her up by it. At the least, if she even comes close to this time in London, it will assure her a spot on the podium, and a good shot at gold as well.
Coralie Blamy will also be swimming this race at the Olympics with a 4:05.45 for 2nd. She was actually faster than that already this year – and similarly to Muffat until today has had trouble stepping up for big meets.
A third swimmer almost made the A-cut in Ophelie-Cyrielle Etienne. She placed 3rd overall in 4:09.61 (just ahead of Romanian veteran Camelia Potec in 4:09.69). That’s better than she was last season, but nowhere near the 4:05 she swam at the 2010 European Championships. France really needs her to step up big in the 200 free.
Men’s 100 Breast – Final
Qualifying Times: semi-1:01.51/final-1:00.79
The big shocker is that the French will have no individual qualifiers in London for the 100 breaststroke. 2008 bronze medalist Hugues Duboscq was already out of the competition after failing to make the mandated semi-final time, and with that defense off the table he looked really poor in finals with a 1:02.11 (he almost, in fact, was caught by 21-year old unknown Thomas Dahlia). Because he was the 2nd-finishing French swimmer, the Federation can still take him for a relay swim, but at this point it would not be a surprise to see him retire if he doesn’t hit the 2:11.74 in the 200 (which seems unlikely given how he’s been swimming).
Giacomo Perez-Dortona, meanwhile, came excrutiatingly close to the required time with a 1:01.86 for the win (just .07 off of the record). This is the case where you’d like to see them make the exception on the standard – he was painstakingly close, and is clearly a swimmer on the rise. He will be at the meet regardless for a swim in the medley relay, and could very well drop a lot of time between now and the Olympics.
American Mark Gangloff was 2nd overall in 1:01.94.
Women’s 100 Back – Semi
Qualifying Times: prelims-1:02.70/semi-1:01.36/final-1:00.82
The French women looked very good in this 100 backstroke, a race that I think many expected Laure Manaudou to sort of cake-walk into an Olympic qualification. Instead, she was 2nd in this 100 back, behind Alexianne Castel.
Castel, who is really better at the 200, had a solid semi’s swim of 1:00.34 to take the top seed, with Manaudou close behind in 1:00.58. Manudou’s 1:00.42 in prelims was faster.
With the understanding that Castel is really better in the 200, we could see a 2:07-low or 2:06-high in that event later in the meet.
The third woman still alive for a spot in this 100 back is Cloe Credeville, who like Castel is only 21. She swam a 1:01.24 for 3rd in the semi’s, which was identical to her time from prelims.
Men’s 100 Back – Semifinals
Qualification Times: finals – 54.40
So unconcerned was the French Federation about swimmers hitting the qualifying time in this race (or perhaps so concerned were they about making sure their top swimmers got in) that they didn’t set a prelims or a semi-finals time.
That took a bit of pressure off of this deep backstroke field, but didn’t slow them down much. Camille Lacourt cruised to a 53.17, which is already second-best in the world (only .01 behind Liam Tancock).
Benjamin Stasiulis was the 2nd seed in 54.10, and Jeremy Stravius (with whom Lacourt tied as last year’s World Champion) was 3rd in 54.28. American-born dual-citizen Eric Ress came in 4th in a comfortable 55.10. He abandoned plans at a possible 800 free relay spot to focus on this 100, and so expect him to be faster in finals (he’s been half-a-second faster than this time in textile).
Men’s 200 Free – Semi’s
This was another race without early-benchmarks, and so the French stars sort of cruised through the first two rounds of this race. Amaury Leveaux, fresh off of a very good 50 fly on Sunday, took the top seed in 1:47.63, while Yannick Agnel won his heat in 1:47.73.
This is a very tightly-grouped top 4, with Clement Lefert the 3rd seed in 1:47.79 and Gregory Mallet 4th in 1:47.89. I’d expect Agnel to break off something at least in the 1:45-range in finals and take a top-two spot, or he’s going to be disappointed about the decision to drop the 400 from his schedule.
Those four are likely going to be the 800 relay (and a very good relay at that); 20-year old Loys Bourelly (1:49.14) had an excellent close 50-meters of 27.18, so he could surprise someone – or at least prove himself worthy of an alternate swim.
Women’s 100 Fly – Finals
Qualification Times: prelims-1:00.50/semis-59.13/finals – 58.70
There were no swimmers yet eligible for an Olympic spot in this 100 fly after the semi-finals, but that didn’t stop 17-year old Justine Bruno from swimming a strong 59.55 winning time. There are several swimmers in this field who have been under that 58.7 in their careers (runner-up Aurore Mongel – 2nd in 59.71; Diane Bui-Duyet – 4th 1:00.74) but neither was able to make the mark in this race when they really had to.
Margaux Farrell got her first taste of action at this meet after jetting straight from the NCAA Championships (where she competes for Indiana). She chose this 100 fly, rather than the 400 free, as a warmup for her and was 7th in 1:01.43. Her big hope lies in making the 200 free for a spot on the 800 free relay.
Full Meet Results available here.