PARIS, France, July 6. DAY one of the Paris Open featured several quick times from some of the top European and Australian swimmers in the world, in what may be their final competition before the London Olympics. Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe and Yannick Agnel of France each earned multiple wins during the first night of finals.
The most intriguing swim of the day, however, came in a preliminary race. France's Camille Muffat, who has been experimenting with different race strategies in her freestyle events recently, swam an 8:23.60 in the preliminaries of the women's 800m free, taking the race out in 4:18.78 and bringing it back in 4:04.82. Her back half time by itself would rank sixth in the world in the 400m free, while her overall time is also sixth. At this rate, Muffat's performance in London could be quite memorable.
In the men's 50m fly, Australia's Matt Targett earned a narrow victory over France's Fred Bousquet, out-touching him by .01 with a 23.51. Germany's Stefan Diebler slipped into third at 23.79. Bousquet (23.02) and Targett (23.11) already own the third and fourth fastest times, respectively, in the world this year.
Muffat continued her dominance of the middle distance freestyle events with a stellar showing in the 200m free. She checked in with a 1:56.21, off her top time of 1:54.66 but still the sixth fastest in the world. Patricia Castro Ortega of Spain finished a distant second in 1:59.34, while Silke Lippok of Germany posted a 1:59.59 for third.
In the men's 50m breast, Italian Fabio Scozzoli got off the blocks first and held the lead till the end, touching in 27.73 for the win. Giacomo Perez Dortona of France finished a hair behind in 27.77, with South Africa's Cameron van der Burgh less than a tenth back at 27.86. Scozzoli has the sixth best time of 2012 at 27.49.
Germany swept the top two spots in the women's 100m breast final, with Sarah Poewe (1:08.60) and Caroline Ruhnau (1:09.04) leading the way. Italy's Michela Guzzetti was the only other finalist under 1:10, as she swam a 1:09.73 for third. Of the top three finishers, Ruhnau has the fastest time in 2012 at 1:07.28.
Inge Dekker of The Netherlands finished just off her fastest time this year in the women's 100m fly, but still prevailed by more than a second in 58.37. Dekker swam a 58.22 in April, which ties her for 19th in the world rankings. Germany's Alexandra Wenk broke a minute with a 59.65 for second, followed by Judit Ignacio of Spain and Silvia Di Pietro of Italy, who tied for third in 1:00.19.
France's Camille Lacourt, who is considered by many to be a strong contender for Olympic gold in the men's 100m back, easily posted the fastest time in the event, winning in 54.89. Lacourt's top effort of 2012 is a 52.75 from French Trials in March, which sits behind only Matt Grevers' 52.08 from the US Trials last month. Fellow countryman Ben Stasiulis grabbed second in 55.38 while Germany's Helge Meeuw picked up third (55.47).
Russia's Anastasia Zueva, the top-ranked swimmer in the women's 50m back this year at 27.54, posted a 28.26 for the win this evening. Frenchwoman Laure Manaudou swam a 28.56 for second, while Australia's Sophie Edington (29.05) took third.
France grabbed the top three spots in the men's 200m fly, with Jordan Coelho dominating the race in 1:58.86. Hugo Tormento touched almost three seconds back in 2:01.49, while Paul Lemaire finished third in 2:02.48.
Reigning Olympic silver medalist Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe looked strong in the women's 200m IM, posting a 2:13.60 for the victory. She has a bit to go to reach her silver-medal winning time of 2:08.59 from 2008, but is close to her fastest time of 2012, a 2:12.65 from January. Spain's Duane Da Rocha Marce hit the wall second in 2:15.29, while France's Lara Grangeon touched third in 2:16.18.
Yannick Agnel of France cruised to victory in the men's 400m free, recording a 3:51.97 to easily out-distance second place finisher Soeren Meissner of Germany, who swam a 3:55.46. Agnel swam a 3:46.14 in June, ranked fifth in the world. Damien Joly of France touched third in the heat at 3:55.95.
The women's 50m free was a battle of several sprint free heavyweights, as Therese Alshammar of Sweden, Marleen Veldhuis of The Netherlands and Inge Dekker of The Netherlands went head to head. At the touch, it was Veldhuis who walked away victorious in 24.54, with Alshammar in second at 24.84. Dekker finished third in 25.06. Veldhuis has the third best time of 2012 at 24.32, behind Ranomi Kromowidjojo (24.10) and Francesca Halsall (24.13).
Great Britain's Michael Jamieson took the men's 200m breast out fast and extended his lead over the field to win in 2:11.24, a little less than a second and a half off his top time of 2:09.84 from the British Trials in March. Poland's Slawomir Kuczko placed second in 2:13.71, while Lithuania's Giedrius Titenis finished right behind in 2:13.76.
Coventry won her second event of the evening in the women's 200m back, the event in which she won Olympic gold in 2004 and 2008. She had an incredible last 50m to surge by Anastasia Zueva and Duane Da Rocha Marce and post a 2:10.10. Zueva settled for second in 2:10.36, while Da Rocha Marce was third in 2:10.60.
Agnel closed out his night with a second victory, this time in the men's 100m free. He led from start to finish en route to a final time of 49.08, ahead of countryman Jeremy Stravius (49.26) and Australian Matt Targett (49.38). Ten of the 16 finalists, eight of whom were from France, broke 50 seconds in the final.