Agnel disputes failed Rio title defence

MONTPELLIER (France) • Olympic 200m freestyle champion Yannick Agnel will not defend his crown at this year's Games in Rio de Janeiro, after failing to qualify at the French swimming championships on Wednesday in controversial circumstances.

Agnel finished third behind Jeremy Stravius and Jordan Pothain in the 200m freestyle race in Montpellier, with his time outside the automatic qualifying mark (1min 46.06sec) needed to book a place at the Olympic Games.

The 23-year-old thought he had touched the wall second after Stravius, but the timings showed Pothain in second place.

The results were suspended pending an appeal by Agnel's coach to look into a supposed timing problem that could have occurred because he touched the timing pad on the wall too low.

Eventually, the 2013 world champion's fate was confirmed almost two hours after the end of the race, with the appeal judges prevented from studying video evidence due to the rules in place.

Had he finished in the top two, Agnel would have retained a chance of being drafted for the Olympics, but his third place means he has no prospect.

"For me I was second, it was quite clear," said Agnel.

"Everyone I have met said I had evidently touched second, by quite a distance, and that there was no doubt.

"I believe their word."

Agnel's coach later said the swimmer would appeal to the French Olympic Committee while French Swimming Federation (FFN) president Francis Luyce accepted responsibility for the fact that video evidence was not used.

"The rules stipulate that we cannot take into consideration the images, that we have not seen," he said.

The race continues an ongoing controversy in France after the French Swimming Federation (FFN) released Olympic qualifying standards much higher than the official times requested by international governing body Fina.

All of the top four in the race on Wednesday met the standards set by Fina, but all fell below the FFN time, meaning that Stravius and Pothain's Rio hopes remain in the balance.

Former backstroke specialist Stravius' time was the fourth best in the world this season, while even Agnel's third-placed effort puts him in the top 10.

Agnel could still go to Rio, however, as part of the French relay teams.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 01, 2016, with the headline 'Agnel disputes failed Rio title defence'. Print Edition | Subscribe