CHARTRES, France, April 8. AFTER a relatively successful campaign at last year’s world championships, France is looking to dominate at this year’s European championships. The roster of athletes will be filled this week at the long course nationals, featuring Yannick Agnel in his first major meet since moving to the United States to work with Bob Bowman and his North Baltimore elite squad.
Agnel will race the 100, 200 and 400 freestyles in Chartres. If he makes the European championship team in the 400 free, he will be ending a three-year drought of racing in the event internationally. After placing sixth in the 400 at the 2011 world championships, Agnel skipped the event at the 2012 Olympics to focus on the 200 free and 400 free relay, events in which he won gold medals. He continued to stay away from the race in 2013, winning gold in the 200 free and 400 free relay in Barcelona at the world championships. Agnel won the 400 free at the 2010 long course European championships, and will be looking to regain that crown. Bowman is attending the meet to monitor Agnel’s performances firsthand.
Agnel will be fighting for a spot on the 400 free relay that has enjoyed world success since the 2012 Olympics. With Russia hot on their heels, France will need its best swimmers on board to gain European gold. Jeremy Stravius, who was a key leg on last year’s world championship 400 free relay, is not entered the 100 free this week, so Gregory Mallet might be the one to fill the fourth spot. Florent Manaudou and Fabien Gilot look to secure the other relay spots, though competition will be tight for placing in the individual 100 free.
Stravius looks to be sticking with backstroke in 2014, racing in all three backstroke distances this week. Camille Lacourt will be in the 50 and 100 backstrokes to present exciting races in those events. The 200 could get Eric Ress on the roster, depending on the state of his second taper after a strong NCAA championships.
On the women’s side, Camille Muffat leads the charge with entries in the 50, 100, 200 and 400 freestyles. Muffat is looking to be a formidable force at this year’s European championships after failing to impress at the 2013 world championships. France’s female relays are not as strong as those of their male counterparts, though the 800 free relay presents a gold medal challenge with Muffat, Coralie Balmy and Charlotte Bonnet in contention.
The Verraszto siblings from Hungary, Evelyn and David, are likely to put up some fast swims as part of a small contingent of foreign athletes. Algeria, Switzerland and Tunisia are also sending swimmers to the meet this week.
The French nationals begins tomorrow at 9 a.m. local time with prelims, followed by finals at 5 p.m. local time.