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Agnel & Muffat Majestic Over 200 Free

Mar 26, 2011  - Craig Lord

French nationals, Strasbourg: day 4 finals

Yannick Agnel and Camille Muffat, Nice training partners under the guidance of Fabrice Pellerin, leapt to the helm of the early 2011 world rankings over 200m freestyle with commanding victories on the fourth day of action in Strasbourg that booked them tickets to world-title races in Shanghai this July. 

Agnel's 1:45.47 French-record victory got inside the 1:46.27 clocked by Olympic champion Michael Phelps (USA) earlier this month and was well up on Jérémy Stravius, of Amiens, who took silver in 1:48.46. The splits told a tale of Agnel's aim: to get down to the speed of Phelps some day (see race report below).

In terms of what the world has seen so far, Muffat was yet more majestic than her Nice teammate. Just five women have cracked 1:56 over 200m freestyle while wearing a textile suit - the list extended today to world short-course champion Muffat, the 21-year-old who claimed the French crown in 1:55.95. The others on the list: Laure Manaudou (FRA), retired Annika Lurz (GER) and Federica Pellegrini (ITA) and Sara Isakovic (SLO) medallist behind Pellegrini in Beijing on 1:54.97 in an arena Powerskin R-Evolution, a full-textile bodysuit worn in a race that saw the first Olympic crown lifted by a swimmer wearing two suits, a practice subsequently banned. [Thanks to the reader who pointed out Isakovic's effort in a textile suit in 2008].

A time of 1:55.39 was registered by Haruka Ueda (JPN) in February in Tokyo. Official Japanese sources have now confirmed that time to have actually been 1:59.98 and the world rankings have been adjusted accordingly.

In other action, Lara Grangeon, of Caledoniens, fell a frustrating 0.05sec shy of the French 400m medley record when she retained the crown in 4:38.28, 6.6sec faster than her 2010 victory and the first sub-4:40 effort by a Frenchwoman in a textile suit.

Race Reports

Women's 200m freestyle

Camille Muffat's 1:55.95 retention of the title marked her first dip below 1:56sec - in any suit - and took her to within 0.43sec of the 1:55.52 at which Laure Manaudou won the world crown in record time back in 2007. 

Those two swims were not far apart in the pattern of their unfolding, Muffat's deficit owing much to the first 50m, while her last 50m was 0.56sec faster than Manaudou's 2007 effort:

The splits compared:

  • Muffat:       27.68; 56.96 (29.28); 1:26.68 (29.72); 1:55.95 (29.27)
  • Manaudou: 27.13; 56.24 (29.11); 1:25.69 (29.45); 1:55.52 (29.83)

The difference in those two races was that Manaudou was challenged all the way, by Lurz (GER), on 1:55.68 at the end, with Pellegrini also providing pressure having ended Franziska Van Almsick's 13-year reign as world record holder in the semis.

There was no such close call for Muffat, the silver going to Coralie Balmy, of Antibes, in 1:58.37, the bronze to Ophélie-Cyrielle Etienne, of Dauphins Toulouse, in 1:58.94. The last relay berth went to 15-year-old Charlotte Bonnet, on 1:59.10, while Mylène Lazare and Margaux Farrell were left to wait over possible relay reserve spots, on time a touch over 2mins.

Whatever unfolds in the world over the coming weeks and months, Muffat will surely head to Shanghai for world titles in July a medal favourite. The best in the world this year had been a 1:56.61 by Femke Heemskerk (NED), while Muffat had warnedwith a 1:56.63 at her home meet in Nice last month.

How they measure up:

  • 2010 podium: 1:58.17; 1:58.65; 2:00.10
  • 2011 podium: 1:55.95; 1:58.37; 1:58.94; (1:59.10)
  • FRA record: 1:55.52 Laure Manaudou 2007

Best FRA podium result at world titles: gold, twice

  • In 2005, Solenne Figues clocked 1:58.60 to keep Federica Pellegrini (ITA) at bay by 0.13sec
  • In 2007, Laure Manaudou claimed the crown in a world record of 1:55.52 

Manaudou, back in training, was at the venue watching what she will face should she go for the full comeback and seek a place on the French team for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Men's 200m freestyle

Yannick Agnel raced 3sec ahead of the next best, his 1:45.47 a French record that left him 8th equal with world and European champion Paul Biedermann (GER) on the all-time list of performances swum in textile suits. 

The French record had stood at 1:45.83 since Agnel touched a hand behind Biedermann's 1:45.47 best when the two led off their respective 4x200m relays in Budapest at the European Championships last summer. Agnel, having kept Biedermann at bay for the 400m crown, had missed the solo clash because he had not met selection criteria at French trials last year when swimmers had to meet targets in the rounds, not only in the final.

The splits suggest that Agnel is testing a new speed, the kind of speed he may well need to take on Michael Phelps and Park Tae-hwan (KOR), among other contenders. Comparing his splits with those of Biedermann's in Budapest last year, the French 18-year-old was significantly ahead of pace until the last 50m - but the challenge is to be found in Phelps's splits from Melbourne 2007, when he took the world title by getting inside Ian Thorpe's world mark:

  • Agnel 2011:          24.69; 51.19; 1:18.43; 1:45.47
  • Biedermann 2010: 25.53; 52.37; 1:19.14; 1:45.47
  • Phelps 2007:          24.47; 51.00; 1:17.73; 1:43.86

That all-time textile best is still out there as a target, no other man having broken 1:44. Those ahead of Agnel on the clock (textile) among swimmers still in the race: Phelps, Thorpe, Park and Lochte.

In Strasbourg, the minor spoils went to Jérémy Stravius, of Amiens, in 1:48.46, and Grégory Mallet, of Marseilles, on 1:49.31. The last sure relay berth went to European 800m and 1,500m champion Sébastien Rouault in 1:49.77. 

How they measure up:

  • 2010 podium: 1:47.52; 1:48.36; 1:48.47
  • 2011 podium: 1:45.47; 1:48.46; 1:49.31; 1:49.77
  • FRA record: 1:45.83 Yannick Agnel 2010

Best FRA podium result at world titles: no medals

Women's 200m breaststroke

Paris-based Moroccan Sara El Bekri took the crown in 2:26.16 ahead of Coralie Dobral of Massy, on 2:27.27, just shy of the best ever by a Frenchwoman in a textile suit dating back to 2000, see stats below), the bronze going to Fanny Babou, of St-Esteve, on 2:29.61. That locked out French record holder Sophie De Ronchi, on 2:30.20 by the end, having matched the leaders stroke for stroke for the first half of the race.

How they measure up:

  • 2010 podium: 2:28.38; 2:29.54; 2:30.02
  • 2011 podium: 2:26.16 MAR; 2:27.27; 2:29.61; 2:30.20 
  • FRA record all suits: 2:25.19 Sophie De Ronchi 2009
  • FRA textile best: 2:27.13 Karine Bremond 2000

Best FRA podium result at world titles: no medals

Men's 100m breaststroke

Defending champion Hugues Duboscq, of Le Havre, clocked 1:00.63 to riser to second best in the world this year behind the only sub-minute effort, a 59.93 registered for Yuta Suenaga in Tokyo last month as he raced to silver behind Kosuke Kitajima at Japan's s/c nationals.

The silver in Strasbourg went to Giacomo Dortona, of Marseilles, in 1:01.35, the bronze to Senegal's France-based Malik Fall, in 1:02.58, that locking out Maxime Bussiere, of Marseilles, on 1:02.75.

How they measure up:

  • 2010 podium: 1:00.95; 1:01.44 GBR; 1:02.00; 1:02.77
  • 2011 podium: 1:00.63; 1:01.35; 1:02.58 SEN; 1:02.75
  • FRA record all suits: 58.64 Hugues Duboscq 2009
  • FRA textile best: 1:00.05 Hugues Duboscq 2005

Best FRA podium result at world titles: at Rome in 2009, Duboscq clocked 58.64 to take silver behind Brenton Rickard (AUS), champion in a world record of 58.58, the clock reflecting the suits allowed at the time.

Women's 400m medley

Lara Grangeon, of Caledoniens, fell a frustrating 0.05sec shy of the French 400m medley record when she retained the crown in 4:38.28, 6.6sec faster than her 2010 victory. 

If Grangeon takes comfort in her own personal improvement, she will doubtless also be pleased with the fact that she got became the first Frenchwoman to swim inside 4:40 in a textile suit, Laure Manaudou having clocked a national mark of 4:40.06 in 2006 before Joanne Andraca's 2008 mark of 4:38.23.

Grangeon had a lonely race, the silver going to Léa Giraudon, of Ezanville, in 4:52.20, ahead of Sweden's France-based Ina Sandin, on 4:52.27, that effort locking out Adeline Martin, of Antibes, on 4:52.34.

How they measure up:

  • 2010 podium: 4:44.88; 4:45.00 IRL; 4:52.74; 4:53.04
  • 2011 podium: 4:38.28; 4:52.20; 4:52.27 SWE; 4:52.34
  • FRA record all suits: 4:38.23 Joanne Andraca 2008
  • FRA textile best: 4:40.06 Laure Manaudou 2006

Best FRA podium result at world titles: no medals

Men's 200m medley

Visitor Bradley Ally, of Barbados, key the natives at bay with a 2:00.90 victory over Ganesh Pedurand, of Toulouse, on 2:03.31, the bronze going to Arnaud Rondan, of Nimes, in 2:03.65, which closed the door to the podium ahead of Christophe Soulier, of Montpellier, on 2:03.98.

How they measure up:

  • 2010 podium: 2:02.93 POR; 2:03.98; 2:04.16; 2:04.32
  • 2011 podium: 2:00.90 BAR; 2:03.31; 2:03.65; 2:03.98
  • FRA record all suits: 1:59.58 Fabien Horth 2009
  • FRA textile best: 2:01.08 Xavier Marchand 1997

Best FRA podium result at world titles: at Perth in 1998, Marchand took silver behind Marcel Wouda (NED) 2:01.18 to 2:01.66.