Yannick Agnel’s Olympic 200 Defence ‘Ends’ In 3rd At French Trials; Stravius 1st, No Cut

Yannick Agnel by Patrick B. Kraemer
Yannick Agnel by Patrick B. Kraemer

There will be no defence of the Olympic 200m freestyle crown among men at Rio 2016: Yannick Agnel finished third at French Championships in Montpellier this evening – and the champion, Jérémy Stravius missed the automatic qualification target for solo action in Rio.

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Comments

Ger

Is that definite regarding Agnel? What if he makes the qualifying time at another meet?

Craig Lord

Discretion, Ger, is in the mix but the cut times are supposed to be done at trials/championships, where a top 2 place is the key that triggers discretion. I really don’t know if there is a discretion beyond a discretion – finding out… some dispute over Agnel being 2nd or 3rd but results right now stands… 3rd would make it more difficult to trigger discretion.

KeithM

It seems some evil gremlins have snuck into the Montpelier swim venue and switched in
the Seiko touch pads from Fukuoka 2001.

French standards seem unreasonably stringent…or maybe overzealous is the right description. I understand the aim of the QTs I’m just of the opinion they went a bit overboard, didn’t get the balance right.

aswimfan

Agnel was never the same since he went to Baltimore and trained with Bob Bowman.

Personal Best

I can’t understand how there could be confusion over placings in an Olympic Trial.

A slightly unexpected result but that’s not to say that the time is not relatively strong in context of world rankings (but not in terms of previous winning times).

Craig Lord

Quite, PB, hard to say how it would be possible for the electronic timing to fib … would cast doubt on all result, which I’m sure would not be what they would wish in France.

aswimfan

So, the tradition that no Olympics 200 free champion successfully defending their title continues. At least on the men’s side. And if Schmitt fail to qualify, it will continue for women too.

The closest ones to do the double in 200 free are Thorpe or PVDH on the men’s side and Pellegrini on the women’s side.

easyspeed

Some people believe Agnel was done in by NBAC. I think he was done in before NBAC. What happened? Who knows. More likely a psychological issue (such as burnout) rather than a training issue. Agnel left his coach and country right after winning gold at the Olympics? Something wrong with that..

aswimfan

I don’t know, but he still swam 1:44.20 in Barcelona, one or two months after moving to Baltimore.
And a year later, he barely won 200 free bronze at the European champs and left out of France’s 4x100free.
And there was no excuse of injuries etc.

These are evidence that he was not done in before NBAC, amd more likely NBAC done him in.

aswimfan

Also, IIRC, Agnel was not the only high profile swimmer who left NBAC in 2014 after one year there.

Yozhik

Easyspeed, Agnel wasn’t the only one who left coach Fabrice Pellerin after winning Olympic gold medal…

Craig Lord

Camille M stayed with Fabrice Pellerin until she decided to quit the sport altogether in 2015, Yozhik (ahead of tragedy in a different realm, of course).

Craig Lord

I think you’re on the right track, easyspeed… I think this is not simply a story of ‘wrong coach’, it is a story of ‘where the swimmer found himself in life after a long period of very high commitment from a young age’ and all that can go with that.

Yozhik

Something was not right to both of them. In Nice, in France, in Life… who knows. Can be completely unrelated.

nclswim

http://www.beinsports.com/france/natation/video/france-200m-m-stravius-et-agnel-loupent-les-m/228103

This is the video of the 200FS unfortunatley geo-restricted to France, but if you are able to view it, Agnel clearly finishes second by some margin.

ThereaLuigi

Yes, the curse of the 200 free continues it appears. Perhaps it is a distance that wears you down (not the distance per se, the kind of training it takes to stay at a high level; that’s why I always say Federica is exceptional).

I haven’t seen a video of the race in France yet, but people who saw it claim that Agnel was clearly in front of the official second swimmer. I don’t know what to think. 1:46 at the national Trials means he is not a gold medal contender in the event any more, but on the other hand it would be a shame not to get the spot on account of a timing system failure.

I don’t understand the incredibly strict cut times either. Some of these times are below the NR. The French federation seems to think that it is worth taking part in the Olympics only if you are a medal contender. But I think that even just getting into a final gives prestige to the swimmer’s nation. And how can you not send a swimmer that beats the NR to the Olympics? Besides, in 4 months the times swum in Montpellier could drop, especially with the younger swimmers. Did not Agnel himself drop a second or so between Trials and Olympics?

Ger

Here’s the race. He clearly appears to have finished second even with a slight glide at the end:
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x411hnp_jo-rio-2016-yannick-agnel-au-coeur-d-un-incroyable-imbroglio_sport

CharlesB

Ger – Thanks for the video link. The slow motion at the end shows that he touched the wall (very low down) a good foot before Pothain. We are not talking about 0.01 of a second here. Odd that the timing gives the difference as really quite large at 0.18 but in the opposite direction!! Never seen anything like that before.

stabilo

In my opinion the French qualifying times are unreasonably fast. The 400m Free for men for example is faster than but PVK took bronze in London! And 7 events are faster than French National Record.

I understand the arguments against ‘tourists’, but not sure this is the right way to go. For one, it wouldn’t help against people who can be fast at trials but perennially under-perform when it comes to big events. These surely are much worse ‘tourists’ than people who are going to be 7-8th but not really threaten medals.

One thing I take issue with is the argument that was also made by Fabrice Pellerin about good heat/semi performances than dropping at the final – especially relative to the times people set at trials. Similar criticisms were made of the GBR team (slower than trials). But this is a stupid argument when you consider that although the program is the same at trials, the effort is not. Many of the top GBR/Fra swimmers can coast the heats and even semis in domestic waters. Not so at the Olympics. So you have a situation where at trials someone can cruise a 400IM heat than swim hard in the evening Final. And then the Olympics must push 100% in heats – either make the final and be relatively more tired; or you compare a morning swim with evening. Not equal comparisons.

On the other hand, are the strict criteria really a bit of a red herring? They can take 6 men and 6 woman at ‘discretion’. So – not saying this will happen – but someone like Agnel could still go if he bucks his ideas up from now. It gives flexibility that if someone messes up the one-shot of trials, they can still go. That’s arguably a good thing (what if someone was ill etc). You can’t really do that with low QTs if your probably-actually-best-swimmer messed up trials and you had 2 people qualify.

aswimfan

From the slow mo video, it is inconclusive that Agnel pressed the touch pad hard enough to trigger the time to stop. He touched very low and thus the pressure may not have been strong enough.

Remember Cavic vs. Phelps in Beijing?
Even if it appears on the surface that Cavic touched the pad first, the pad didn’t register that. Instead we got Phelps won by 0.01 second.
Similar thing may have happened here. But we don’t know since the video angle is pretty bad and not positioned directly undeneath the two lines.

It is high time and decades too late that FINA should allow video footage as evidence to settle disputes. That way we will get much better quality video camera installed for nationa/international Champs

aswimfan

I think that’s why the French national technical directors ruled the way it is: because even the slow mo is inconclusive, therefore they had to go with the official timing results.

stabilo

ASF – is your argument that currently cameras are used (or at least footage is usually available), but too poor to help decide contentious issues? I don’t really see that footage helps answer the question – which timing is fine for already – but just to shut people up who are complaining. Like Beijing, where it looked quite clear that Phelps had touched ‘harder’.

aswimfan

Stabilo,

I think in the case of Agnel, a better quality video footage would help.
The best that Agnel and his camp can do now is prove that the pad is faulty, or the manufacturer/contractor of the timing pad acknowledge that the timing pad is faulty.

Pierre AGOGUE

It seems so clear looking at the video that Yannick touch before, one stroke at least…understandable!

Pierre AGOGUE

I mean incredible!

stabilo

Wow. Yes. Looks crazy.

aswimfan

I don’t know which video that conclusively shows that Agnel pressed the pad earlier than Potthain.

Because from the footage in the comment by Ger above, there are only two versions:
1. From above surface but at angle on the right and from back.
2.from underneath, also from back-right angle with zoom at terrible quality.

None has the same conclusive quality as Cavic-Phelps Beijing video or Schipper-Jedreczak Montreal video.

Ger

The odd coincidence here is that the same thing happened to Agnel during his heat; the touchpad failed to register a time. After investigation, his place in the final was confirmed.

aswimfan

Ger,

Wwre Agnel’s heat and final swims on the same Lane?

Ger

@ASF, Agnel was top seed, so lane 4 in the heat. He was lane 6 in the final. It seems he also finished low in the heat.

aswimfan

Ger,

Based on the available facts, I propose 3 possibilities:

1. Agnel’s technique fell apart towards finish, causing him to have really bad finish in both heats and final, touching the wall very low.
2. There’s faulty in timing pad.
3. The surface area of timing pads do no meet minimum standards (but this is the least likely, as apparently only Agnel has problem with it).

stabilo

The underwater shot is quite helpful (though as ASF says, not good enough really). He really touches so low. You keep thinking he must have touched the wall but only after a while does his arm bend with the force. Awful finish.

ThereaLuigi

Aswimfan, with respect to your no.1, I have read in that “other site” an interesting theory, that since he lifted his head on the finish (mortal sin for an elite swimmer) the direction of the hand was downward instead of straight. But still, can you loose half a second like that? Because he seemed to be 0.3 ahead, not 0.2 behind!

anyway, from what I understand about the rules there was nothing the officials could do. Either the other guy gives up his spot as they did for Thorpie in 2004 (and assuming the federation condones the missed cut) or he won’t defend the title, period.

KeithM

In 2001 in Fukuoka Anthony Ervin was awarded the gold medal despite not registering a time. They did use video replay to confirm that he clearly touched first. They designated him a time of 48.33. I’m not sure how they come up with his official time, whether they guesstimated it or drew it out of a hat. I’m not sure if the rule has been amended or clarified since then. But clearly in the past, as with Phelps, they have used video replay to review finishes and results. They appear not to have bothered to even review the replay here, claiming that the video replays were “unofficial” therefore inadmissable.

On another note ASswimfan, what was “conclusive” about the Phelps-Cavic underwater replays? There was no clear evidence that Cavic touched first (nor Phelps). It appeared Cavic edged it watching live because he had been ahead until the very end. But the underwater replays seem to show them touch simultaneously…impossible to tell with the naked eye. Even if the timing system for some reason had been off by .01 (complete supposition) it would have been a tie not a lone victory for Cavic. Occam’s razor in that instance would suggest that the timing system was correct and the subjective above water real time live viewing of the race gave the false impression of the finish. According to the race referee in Beijing on viewing the video he stated that it was conclusive that Phelps did touch first and that the Serbian officials were satisfied that this was the case after viewing the replays. I don’t perceive that with my own eyes after multiple viewings. They appear to touch at the same time.

easyspeed

Machines don’t make mistakes, people do. Bad finish. End of story.

KeithM

Machines do mistakes. They can break. They can malfunction. Sometimes they plain just don’t work. Machines are programmed by people They rely on people for upkeep. Therefore they are not infallible. There was nothing wrong with Anthony Ervin’s finish in Fukuoka. There was plenty wrong with the equipment. The error was the machine’s not the swimmer’s. The officials rectified this by reviewing the replay of the finish and awarding him the gold.

We’re not talking a mere hundredth of a second in Agnel’s case. We’re talking about a bigger margin. The fact that he may have had a bad finish is irrelevant to the matter of whether the equipment is functioning properly. Would this issue even attract any attention if it involved a relatively anonymous swimmer rather than Agnel? Probably not. Still, that’s not a reason to ignore potential issues with the equipment. If they review the replay and examine everything to verify it’s all in working order that’s one thing. But to just brush it off and ignore it seems irresponsible to me.

easyspeed

No, you are right. Let’s keep coming up with wacky theories as to why Agnel lost. Maybe space aliens zapped the touchpad making it malfunction by half a second for the first time in swimming history? Or perhaps the Loch Ness monster got in his way preventing him from finishing second?

Come on. Every age group swimmer knows how to touch the pad properly. And free isn’t like fly where it’s tricky for the swimmer to judge the distance to the wall. YA blew it. The end.

KeithM

We know Agnel lost (ie didn’t win the race). This is not in dispute. The issue is much bigger than Agnel and whether he finished in 2nd or 3rd. How do you know he didn’t touch the pad properly? Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. This is rarely an issue in this sport. Even soft touches should register accurate times to within a very small margin of error…not the margin we are considering in this case.

aswimfan

KeithM,

In 2008 Beijing (and in 2005 Montreal), they had video camera directly underneath the middle lanes so we could see a photo finish quality (like what they usually have in track Athletics) of the race.
In this French trials, they didn’t have that kind of quality (both camera position and resolution) video.

It is strange however that Agnel had such terrible finish in the heats and he did it again in the final. As if he didn’t prepare well or take this trials seriously.

aswimfan

I agree with easyspeed.

People who have bizzarre theories and/or are claiming there is a conspiracy against Agnel or that French swimming technical team are incompetent have forgotten this photo:

https://static01.nyt.com/images/2008/08/15/sports/olympics/16phelps04_600.jpg

Now, tell me if Phelps is not half a stroke behind. But we know that in swimming finishes, momentum is extremely important.

Keith said that even soft touches should register accurate times to within a very small margin of error. But from the image below it is clear to all that Cavic touched the wall first and yet didn’t register time.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_oTwEGiup_Wo/SKb5hkg-0vI/AAAAAAAACjw/omYUwTanAX8/s400/Phelps_by_01.jpg

Don’t believe that bad finish can cause really bad loss?
Just ask Hoff right after Beijing 400 free final.

KeithM

Aswimfan, even if they didn’t have the highest quality footage they should at least take the opportunity to review. If the quality or vantage point from the replay is “inconclusive” then so be it. But here they didn’t get the chance. How did you arrive at your own opinion regarding the finish being “inconclusive?” You watched the “slo mo” replay of course. Sometimes mistakes are clear and obvious enough that you don’t need the latest state of the art technology or the best camera angles to see that an error has occurred.

aswimfan

KeithM,

I’m not sure about the review process for the French trials. Are you sure they didn’t look at video footage and/or manual timing?

The fench trials didn’t have the quality video footage like these:

http://cache1.asset-cache.net/gc/82466880-swimming-2008-summer-olympics-underwater-view-gettyimages.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=GkZZ8bf5zL1ZiijUmxa7QTC5QodLNMMwNNO0%2BePqQ9Tx3PiuURu0LD3UjI36LzzxSde68lfg6HahFWWTygyu%2B%2BEM6OveZLZp2FiQVPDW0V8%3D

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/09/86/13/09861381b63e14873bd7d2cb454197dc.jpg

In the first image I’m sure everyone would have sworn Cavic won it.
But in the second image, it was not so clear as Phelps seems to have pressed harder and Cavic lost momentum.
I’m sorry, but even the slo-mo Agnel footage does not show certainty beyond reasonable doubt that he pressed the touchpad and triggered the time first. It is very bad angle, It is zoomed from a distance and the resolution is not high enough.
Unless someone can prove the touchpads or timing electronics are faulty, I don’t know how some peope are absolutely certain Agnel pressed the touchpad earlier than Pothain.

easyspeed

I don’t mean to belabor this point too much. With all due respect, it seems some internet swim fans have gone quite mad over this issue. Think about what you are saying. One touchpad, for one race involving a popular swimmer, has malfunctioned- but only slightly enough to give said swimmer a third place finish. I mean, as Craig pointed out above, if we are questioning the validity of touch pads ANY swimmer could start making claims. “Hey, I think I got a world record but the touch pad said I missed it by four tenths.” Someone cited a touchpad malfunction in 2001. As in, it didn’t work at all. That can happen. Never heard of a pad being partially off. If that were the case, we would expect bigger errors as well, would we not? Perhaps a second or two? When the Phelps Cavic thing happened, everyone’s imagination ran wild too- until alternate sources of data (i.e. high speed photography) showed the pad was right all along. Get a grip people! That is all. 🙂

BoetMate

KeithM, Having reviewed the underwater footage multiple times and stopped in at various stages, IMO Agnel was a legit third.

He basically missed the wall directly in from of him and he kept reaching down for the touch and lost about .25 seconds eventually touching very low down.

From behind you can only surmise who touched first but do yourself a favour watch when each swimmer first bends their elbow as they do to absorb the impact of the wall to avoid a wrist or finger impact injury.

Basically it appears simultaneous so I would say its 50/50 at best so we go with the pads.

Noways also, pads normally register a touch or no touch. I have never heard of pads registering a touch a few milliseconds later than the actual touch and there no evidence of Agnel touching a second time.

KeithM

BoetMate, the key aspect of your statement is “having reviewed the underwater footage multiple times.” If only the meet referee/officials did the same then there is no issue. However, they did not and therein lies the greater problem. It’s about having a clear, fair, and reasonable process in place not simply the result.

Re: Your concluding comment, “I have never heard of pads registering a touch a few milliseconds later than the actual touch.” Christophe Berthaud, the head of Omega Timing has stated explicitly otherwise. A swimmer doesn’t finish when they “touch” but rather when they push the pad. Otherwise just the movement of the water in the pool against the pad could register a “touch.”

KeithM

– but only slightly enough to give said swimmer a third place finish. I mean, as Craig pointed out above, if we are questioning the validity of touch pads ANY swimmer could start making claims.

Swimmers should always have the right for redress and review should they believe an error has occurred. Certainly in instances like this when widespread uncertainly/mistrust over the result is widespread a review has clear merit. I think the technology we have today is amazing and it is rare that any problems occur. That’s great. But when we start becoming complacent we invite trouble. It isn’t simply about one swimmer kicking up a fuss (he didn’t even lodge the protest himself). Fans and commentators watching alike were confused by the official results because they did not square with their perceptions of what they witnessed.

That’s why a review of the footage is critical in instances like this one and in Beijing. Not only to assuage the doubts of the swimmer and their team but also all fans and observers. Look, in most cases the footage will probably serve to validate the equipment which is great. But let’s not go down the path of of putting unwavering faith in the technology (or the individuals responsible for it’s maintenance) to the degree that we believe it is unimpeachable. Imagine if when the Serbian team lodged it’s protest of behalf of Cavic that it was rejected without an official review of the finish. It would have been one hell of a maelstrom. But it was reviewed and thus the uproar was defused.

BoetMate

KeithM, I do agree with you that if technology is available we should use it. Thanks for educating me on the operation of a timing pad. Per the Omega site regarding the OMEGA OCP5 Touchpads :

The contact strips and the surface are adjusted in such manner that any point on the touch pad reacts to the same force, between two and three kilograms.

So then the question I suppose is:

If clear overhead video evidence had indicated that Agnel touched the pad before Pothain without applying the 2 to 3 kg of force required to trigger the pad and his fingers then scrapped down the pad only to apply the required force later, who would be declared the second place finisher if video review was permitted?

I have no idea. Perhaps someone up date on the rules and use of video review could enlighten us.

easyspeed

I wans’t confused about this race or the Phelps/Cavic one; I trust the technology.

But your other point we can agree on: when possible multiple data sources are better than one data source.I have long advocated underwater cameras to stop the breaststroke shenanigans. But since the French were not using cameras of the type needed, and at the proper angles, it becomes a question of the touch pad vs the naked eye- and I trust the former more.

aswimfan

I don’t know about the exact FINA rule, but isn’t video review not possible?

Case in example:
In 2005 Montreal it was clear as day from the video footage that Jedreczak broke the rule in regards to finishing fly race using both hands, and yet the video review not admissible even after the Australian team appealed.

stabilo

Boetmate – A hypothetical question? Presumably no top quality swimmer would/could do that. Anyway I think it is just who triggers the pad, not who touches it. It’s unlikely that Agnel touched on the surface but then dragged his hand down on the pad; rather than he nearly touched on the surface, then kept ‘nearly’ touching as his hand dropped and dropped.

In the interests of highly objective testing, I tried the Agnel-finish (touching a metre too deep) last night in the pool. Quite disconcerting (he must have known he’d screwed up, badly), and surprising how much longer that half-metre or so feels. And nearly headbutted the wall. I’d love to see a proper top-down shot of the race.

BoetMate

Stabilo, Thanks for the update. With a top sprinting on the surface, you have confirmed what basic geometry tells us in theory, ie that to touch the wall that deep one’s head would have to be much closer to the wall. Generally the reference point for us spectators is each swimmers head, so in a “head finish” he was definitely well ahead hence the objection.

Yozhik

What we like the Olympic Games for is not only great performances and fierce competition. We like also great upsets. Yannick Agnel robbed us with that. Could be wait with this disappointment until August? It doesn’t matter if he was third or second or even first. It was SLOW.

aswimfan

I agree with Yozhik here. Judging by his current form (in which I assume he is fully tapered, fully rested and had full preparation in advance of the tough French qualifying times), there is very little chance he will medal in Rio even if Pothain give him his position.

Pothain may actually progress even faster in Rio given the chance. He is a 200-400 swimmer and he crushed his 200 PB by around 1.3 seconds.

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