France’s Yannick Agnel (Mulhouse Olympic Natation) may defend his 2012 OIympic title in the 200 free after all.
The French Federation (FFN) held a press conference this morning to announce the men and women who will represent France at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, following their Olympic Trials last week. The French swimming world has been in suspended disbelief since last Wednesday when Agnel appeared very clearly to finish second in the 200 free final behind Jérémy Stravius, but clocked the third-fastest time after touching the pad too low. (See our coverage here.)
Since then there has been a great deal of speculation as to how the FFN would deal with the situation. Jordan Pothain, who was the official silver medalist, said in a press conference with Agnel’s coach Lionel Horter, that he believed he had touched third. Pothain later notched a FINA A cut when he won the 400 free, making him a good bet to be selected to the French roster anyway. But then things got complicated again when Agnel said in an interview with Sport365.fr that he would refuse an invitation to swim the 200 free individually in order to concentrate on his 200 free in the 4×200 relay, saying: “Today, with 1:46.4, which I think I swam [Editor’s note: Agnel’s official third-place time was 1.46.99.], I am not competitive to medal. If I am selected, that’s very nice, but that won’t keep me from turning down the individual 200 free to concentrate on the 4×200 relay, which has a strong chance to medal.”
With all that as the background, National Technical Director Jacques Favre said in this morning’s press conference, “There will be a place reserved for Yannick Agnel in the 200 free after we discuss it with him.” (“Sur le 200m nage libre, une place sera réservée à Yannick Agnel après avoir discuté avec lui.”)
It is understood that Pothain stepped aside in the 200 to allow this scenario to play out. He will swim the 400 free individually and be on France’s 4×200 free relay in Rio.
Agnel has not yet decided if he will accept the individual selection. He told Infosport+, “I will do everything I can to be in top form [for the 200]. If I don’t feel I can be competitive in the individual race, I will step aside.” (“Je vais tout donner pour être en forme. Si je ne me sens compétitif sur l’individuel je me désisterai.”)