PHOENIX, Arizona, March 8. THIS morning we learned that Yannick Agnel will not race the 400 freestyle at the French Olympic Trials, and therefore will not race the event at the Olympics. Agnel was sixth in the 400 at last summer's world championships and was considered a medal threat in London, but Agnel's coach Fabrice Pellerin told L'Equipe that his swimmer is shifting his focus to the 100 and 200 freestyles. By removing the 400, Pellerin said that Agnel has a better shot at competing for medals in the 200 free against the likes of Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps and Paul Biedermann, among others. The French Olympic Trials begin March 18.
Great Britain's Olympic Trials continue forward with more names added to the roster in the Olympic venue. The race that had the crowd buzzing yesterday was the women's 200 butterfly, in whch Ellen Gandy pushed the world record pace of China's Liu Zige for 150 meters before faltering badly in the final 25 meters. Gandy, who trains full-time in Australia, said nerves got the better of her and she wasn't planning on taking the race out that fast, but was lucky enough to survive and win with a 2:06.01. Gandy pulled in Jemma Lowe for second place, which means Lowe will be on the Olympic team after finishing third in the 100 fly.
Yesterday's men's 100 free was the first event of the meet that did not produce an Olympic qualifier in the individual event. Simon Burnett, who trains in Arizona, won the 100 free with a 49.33, which was five tenths slower than the FINA A standard of 48.82. Adam Brown, who was a standout at Auburn University and still trains there, was fourth with a 49.51. All swimmers get another opportunity in June to qualify for the Olympics, but Burnett and Brown are likely to be a part of the 400 free relay with James Disney-May and Craig Gibbons.
Fran Halsall will be a major player in today's 100 freestyle final. She'll be looking to surpass the top time in the world, a 53.74 by Australia's Melanie Schlanger. Halsall put up a 53.83 in yesterday's semifinals and is head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the field, which will be looking to be added to the Olympic team for the 400 free relay.
Other finals contested tonight include the women's 200 breast, men's 200 back and men's 200 IM. Also swimming tonight is the guest final of the men's 100 fly, featuring foreigners attending the meet to test out the venue. Set to swim in that final will be 2008 Olympic silver medalist Milorad Cavic, 2000 Olympic gold medalist Lars Frolander, 2011 world championship silver medalist Konrad Czerniak, and 200 fly specialist Wu Peng. We'll likely see some pretty quick times come from that race.
The national junior college national championships started last night, and Indian River is wasting no time in working to defend their men's and women's team titles. The Pioneers won the men's and women's 400 medley relays, with the women setting a new division record with a 3:42.95. The men almost set a meet record as well with a 3:13.56, and also won the men's 800 free relay. Daytona State prevented an Indian River sweep of events last night, winning the women's 800 free relay.