Yannick Agnel could miss Olympic 200m freestyle after controversial finish

Yannick Agnel
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Olympic 200m freestyle champion Yannick Agnel appears unlikely to be able to defend his title in Rio after finishing a controversial third at the French Championships, an Olympic selection event, on Wednesday.

Agnel was the second swimmer to touch the wall in the 200m free final in Montpellier, but official results listed him in third (race video here). Agnel touched the timing pad too low, and his time didn’t register, according to Swimswam.com.

Agnel and his coach argued that he was second, but officials denied an appeal, according to French media.

“I thought I’d seen everything in my career but that … it’s terrible,” Agnel said in a video interview, according to a Swimswam translation. “It’s something else I can tell my kids and my grandkids.”

Nobody from the race automatically qualified for Rio, as they all finished slower than the French Olympic qualifying criteria time of 1:46.06, which is 1.91 seconds faster than the Olympic A standard set by FINA.

A 1:46.06 would have placed sixth at the 2012 Olympics and 2015 World Championships.

Still, French officials can later enter Olympic swimmers who didn’t reach the federation’s qualifying time in his or her event, according to multiple reports.

It doesn’t look like Agnel would be chosen for the 200m free, given his third-place result Wednesday and that a nation can enter a maximum of two swimmers in an individual Olympic event.

Agnel still qualified to be a part of the French Olympic 4x200m free relay in Rio. And he can qualify for the 100m free and the 4x100m free relay later in the French Championships.

Agnel has struggled since breaking out at the 2012 Olympics, where he also anchored the French 4x100m relay to gold, and winning the 2013 World title in the 200m free.

He briefly was coached by Bob Bowman in 2014 and then withdrew before the 2015 World Championships for health reasons. He was ranked eighth in the world in the 200m free last year with a best time of 1:45.97, just faster than the French Olympic qualifying standard he needed to reach Wednesday.

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In a tie, Wendy Holdener puts to rest a remarkable stat in Alpine skiing

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Swiss Wendy Holdener ended one of the most remarkable victory droughts in sports by tying for the win with Swede Anna Swenn Larsson in a World Cup slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Sunday.

Holdener, after 15 second-place finishes and 15 third-place finishes in her career, stood on the top step of a World Cup slalom podium for the first time. She shared it with Swenn Larsson, who had six World Cup slalom podiums before Sunday and also earned her first win.

They beat Austrian Katharina Truppe by .22 of a second combining times from two runs.

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Holdener, 29, previously won three World Cups in other disciplines, plus two world championships in the combined and Olympic and world titles in the team event.

“To be tied first when I came into the finish was such a relief,” Holdener said while shoulder to shoulder with Swenn Larsson. “On the end, it’s perfect, because now we can share our first win together.”

Mikaela Shiffrin had the best first-run time but lost her lead midway through the second run and finished fifth. Shiffrin, who won the first two slaloms this season last weekend, was bidding for a 50th World Cup slalom victory and a sixth win in six slaloms in Killington.

“I fought. I think some spots I got a little bit off my timing, but I was pushing, and that’s slalom,” she said before turning her attention to Holdener and Swenn Larsson. “It’s a pretty special day, actually.”

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves next weekend to Lake Louise, Alberta, with two downhills and a super-G.

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Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin
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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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