European Junior Championships: Yannick Agnel Posts Speedy 400 Free

HELSINKI, Finland, July 14. YANNICK Agnel was the star of the opening night of swimming competition at the European junior swimming championships with a world-class time in the 400 freestyle. The meet is taking place over long course meters.

Agnel, quickly becoming one of France's medal hopes for the 2012 Olympics and beyond, defended his title in the 400 free with a 3:46.26. The time is a new meet record and the third-fastest time of the year. Only China's Zhang Lin (3:44.91) and Korea's Tae Hwan Park (3:45.03) have been faster in 2010. Agnel's time makes him the fastest European in the event, two seconds ahead of countryman Sebastien Rouault.

Well behind Agnel in the 400 free final was Sergiy Frolov of the Ukraine, who finished second with a 3:55.70. Rounding out the podium was Alfie Howes of Great Britain with a 3:56.11.

Great Britain's Sophie Smith and Spain's Beatriz Gomez Cortes battled through the final 200 meters of the 400 IM, with Smith taking the gold medal in 4:44.46. Cortes was second in 4:44.87. In third was Alessia Polieri of Italy with a 4:46.71.

Andriy Govorov broke his own meet record of 23.63 in the semifinals of the men's 50 fly with a 23.57, then won the gold medal in the final with a 23.58. He finished well ahead of Ukraine's Dmitry Pokotylo, who won silver in 24.50. Mehdy Metella, the brother of 2004 Olympic 50 freestyle bronze medalist Malia Metella, took the bronze medal in 24.62.

After a posting a 32.28 to lead qualifiers after the semifinals of the women's 50 breaststroke, Lisa Fissneider won the final with a 32.20. The silver and bronze medals went to Germany's Lisa Rathsack with a 32.37 and Great Britain's Sarah Lougher with a 32.48.

Claudia Romeu of Spain won the women's 1500 freestyle with a 16:27.97. Tjasa Oder of Slovenia led the race through 700 meters but could not hold on for the win, finishing second in 16:37.98.

In semifinal action, Christian von Lehm of Germany led qualifiers in the men's 200 breast with a 2:13.85. Anton Blednykh of Russia was close behind with a 2:13.98, followed by Italy's Flavio Bizzarri with a 2:14.55.

The women's 200 fly saw Spain's Judit Sorribes and Rachael Kelly distance themselves from the pack with times of 2:13.75 and 2:13.96, respectively. The third-fastest qualifier for the final was Tina Rueger of Germany with a 2:16.01.

The top time in the women's 100 freestyle semifinals was posted by Germany's Silke Lippok with a 56.21. Alizee Merdy was the second qualifier with a 56.86 and Mathilde Cini of France was third with a 56.76.

Yakov-Yan Toumarkin of Israel chased Laszlo Cseh's meet record of 55.06 in the men's 100 back semifinals, posting the fastest time with a 55.59. His teammate, David Gamburg, will be the second qualifier in the final with a 56.61. Germany's Christian Diener qualified third with a 56.69.

Karley Mann of Great Britain will be the top seed in the finals of the women's 200 backstroke with a time of 2:12.69. Sweden's Henrietta Stenkvist was second in 2:13.40. Daryna Zevina, the defending champion, qualified third with a 2:14.48.

The French men won the 400 freestyle relay to conclude the opening night of competition with a 3:19.65, buoyed by Agnel's 49.08 leadoff leg. The British team won the silver medal with a 3:23.97 and Croatia was third, swimming a 3:24.54, shutting the Italian team out of the medals by one tenth of a second.