French Long Course Nationals: Fabien Gilot Tops Star-Studded 100 Free Field

STRASBOURG, France, March 25. FABIEN Gilot highlighted another day of fast swimming at the French long course nationals, which is serving as the selection meet for the country's world championship team.

Gilot took the prestigious men's 100 freestyle national title with a world-leading time of 48.34. Gilot previously had the top time of the year with a 48.82. The second through fifth place finishers also became the second through fifth fastest performers in the event in 2011. William Meynard (48.57), Yannick Agnel (48.59) and Alain Bernard (48.71) secured spots on France's 400 freestyle relay, which poses a challenge for the world title this summer. Alternates for the relay include fifth-place finisher Jeremy Stravius with his 48.82 and sixth-place finisher Amaury Leveaux, who touched in 49.49 to be the 10th-fastest swimmer of 2011 in the event. Fred Bousquet finished seventh in 49.59.

Denmark's Lotte Friis dominated the women's 1500 freestyle with a winning time of 16:06.74. That puts her just a shade off the top time in the world, a 16:06.67 posted by Kerri-Anne Payne a few weeks ago at the British nationals. Finishing second was Chile's Kristel Kobrich with a 16:16.73, which is the fifth-fastest performance of the year. Third place went to Aurelie Muller with a 16:27.77.

Sebastien Rouault was equally dominant in the men's 800 freestyle, taking the title in 7:54.95. He remains the only person to have dipped under eight minutes in the non-Olympic event this year, having also achieved the feat in January with a 7:59.75. Taking second in the race was Sebastien Fraysse with an 8:02.35, and in third was Damien Joly with an 8:03.01.

Alexianne Castel took the women's 100 backstroke in 1:01.36, with Cloe Credeville finishing second in 1:02.07. In third was Hazal Sarikaya from Turkey with a 1:02.58.

Benjamin Stasiulis won the men's 200 backstroke in 1:57.27, which puts him second in the world, just behind James Goddard's 1:57.08 from the British nationals and barely ahead of Tyler Clary's 1:57.31 from January. Camille Lacourt, who normally does not compete in the 200 back, placed second in 1:59.74, good enough for the 10th-fastest time of the year. Joris Hustache took third in 2:00.26. Notably, last year's winner in this event, Eric Ress, is competing at the NCAA championships in the United States for Indiana University and will not be able to swim for a spot on the world championship team.

Foreign athletes are allowed to participate in the championship finals of the French nationals, but only one foreign swimmer each is allowed in the A and B final. That meant Inge Dekker of the Netherlands could compete in the final of the 50 free, while teammate Femke Heemskerk was relegated to the B final of the 50 freestyle though she qualified second overall after prelims. Dekker won the A final in 24.87, while Heemskerk took the B final in 25.39. Dekker previously had swum a 24.87 earlier this month for the third-fastest time of the year, while Heemskerk's best of the year remains 25.35 from January.

Placing second in the A final of the women's 50 free was Angela Tavernier with a 25.91, and Beryl Gastaldello was third in 25.99.

Dekker returned later to win the women's 100 fly in 58.70. She's been much faster this year, with a 57.62 to her credit from earlier this month. With the one foreign swimmer per final heat rule in effect, Denmark's Jeanette Ottesen was relegated to the B final, where she posted the second-fastest overall time with a 58.93. That moves her up the world rankings from 12th to eighth. Placing second in the A final was Aurore Mongel with a 59.33, and finishing third was Diane Bui Duyet with a 59.43.

Greece's Ioannis Drymonakos won the men's 200 fly with a 1:58.39, beating Jordan Coelho in a tight race. Coelho was second with a 1:58.54. In third was Thomas Vilaceca in 1:59.69.