French Long Course Nationals: Yannick Agnel and Camille Lacourt Blazing Fast on First Day

STRASBOURG, France, March 23. THE first day of long course competition at the French nationals – which is also serving as the country's world championship trials – featured world-leading times from Yannick Agnel and Camille Lacourt. Swimmers from other countries were allowed to compete in championship finals as well.

Yannick Agnel provided the world pacesetter for the men's 400 freestyle with a 3:43.85, breaking his own national record of 3:46.17 from the European championships, where he won the gold medal. He's now well in front of the world rankings, with Ous Mellouli's 3:46.64 now the second-fastest in the world. In a tactic that is unusual among the elite male swimmers, Agnel negative-split his race, touching at 200 meters in 1:52.18 and swimming the final 200 in 1:51.67.

Sebastien Rouault stayed with Agnel for 300 meters before falling off the pace, touching second in 3:47.42. In third was Denmark's Mads Glaesner with a 3:51.88.

After narrowly missing Aaron Peirsol's world record of 51.94 in the 100 backstroke at last summer's European championships, Camille Lacourt came up short again with a winning time of 52.44 that is the fastest time of the year, leapfrogging over Liam Tancock's 53.44 from British nationals. The time is the seventh-fastest performance in history. Placing second in the race was Jeremy Stravius with a 53.59, which keeps him ranked third in the world, improving on his 53.78 from January.

Reigning world champion Lotte Friis of Denmark took the women's 800 freestyle championship. Friis won with an 8:24.52 for the second-fastest time in the world behind Rebecca Adlington's 8:20.23 from earlier this month. Camille Muffat was the top Frenchwoman in the timed final event with her 8:26.20, now the fourth-fastest time of the year. In third was Chile's Kristel Kobrich with an 8:38.84. Coralie Balmy had the second-fastest time among French competitors with an 8:39.09.

Alexianne Castel took the national title in the women's 200 back with a 2:08.75, which puts her third in the world behind a couple of 2:07s by Belinda Hocking and Missy Franklin. Femke Heemskerk of the Netherlands vaulted up the world rankings with a second-place time of 2:09.14. Previously, Heemskerk was 14th in the world with a 2:12.32 from January. Marie Jugnet was third with a 2:13.25.

Denmark's Rikke Moller Pedersen won the women's 100 breast in 1:07.52, the fourth-fastest swim of the year in that event. Sophie Ronchi led at 50 meters but settled for second – and the top French place in the event – with a 1:07.97, now the fifth-fastest performance of the year and a national record, breaking Fanny Babou's mark of 1:08.37. Placing third was Coralie Dobral in 1:08.99.

Dorton Giacomo Perez won the men's 50 breaststroke in 27.56, just two tenths off his national record of 27.36 from 2009. Malik Fall was second in 28.10, and Hugues Duboscq was third with a 28.14.

Lara Grangeon took the women's 200 fly title in 2:09.48, the fifth-fastest time of the year. Second place went to Dawn Mongella with a 2:09.97. Kim Vandenberg of the United States was third in 2:10.34.

Fred Bousquet came out on top in the men's 100 fly to round out the session with a 53.43 to lead a field where the top seven finishers were separated by five tenths. Second place went to Christophe Lebon in 53.61, with third place going to Francois Heersbrandt and Mehdy Metella with matching times of 53.68.