Yannick Agnel

Yannick Agnel
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Yannick Agnel can swim 200m freestyle in Rio

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Olympic 200m freestyle champion Yannick Agnel can defend his title at the Rio Games after another French swimmer opted out of contesting the event at the Olympics, according to French reports.

Agnel controversially finished third at the French Olympic trials last Wednesday, despite putting his hand on the wall second, in an apparent touch-pad malfunction.

The man given second place, Jordan Pothain, decided to swim the 400m free and not the 200m free in Rio, according to L’Equipe and Reuters.

That opened up a spot for Agnel, even though none of the French swimmers met the federation’s time standard to automatically qualify for the Olympic 200m free.

“It’s up to [Agnel] to decide his programme,” French federation technical director Jacques Favre said Wednesday, according to Reuters. “He’s got a reserved spot on the 200m freestyle.”

Agnel also finished seventh in the 100m free at the French trials, hurting his chances to make the 4x100m free relay that he anchored to gold at London 2012. Agnel had the fastest split in that Olympic relay, passing Ryan Lochte on the final leg.

Agnel has struggled since breaking out at the 2012 Olympics 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.

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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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Yannick Agnel withdraws from World Swimming Championships

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France’s Olympic and World 200m freestyle champion Yannick Agnel will not compete at the World Swimming Championships in August for health reasons.

Agnel, 23, detailed withdrawing in a French statement.

The World Championships in Kazan, Russia, will now be missing both the 2013 World champions in the 100m free and 200m free, following Australian James Magnussen‘s dropout last month.

Also missing will be Olympic 200m free co-silver medalist Park Tae-hwan of South Korea, due to a doping ban. Plus, 2008 Olympic 200m free champion Michael Phelps due to his punishment from a September DUI arrest.

The 200m free medal favorites include both Americans entered — 2013 World silver medalist Conor Dwyer and fourth-place finisher Ryan Lochte — China’s Sun Yang, who shared London Olympic silver with Park, German world-record holder Paul Biedermann and Japan’s Kosuke Hagino, the world’s best all-around swimmer.

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