Agnel reaps rewards of mentor
Frenchman overcomes stellar field to clinch 200m freestyle final
Olympic champion Yannick Agnel has said working with Michael Phelps’ ex- coach Bob Bowman helped the Frenchman win 200m freestyle gold at the world championships.
France’s Agnel demolished a powerful field in Tuesday’s final, clocking 1 min, 44.20 sec, more than a second ahead of Conor Dwyer of the US, who finished second at 1.12 sec back, with Russia’s Danila Izotov 1.39 adrift in third.
Having started working with Bowman two months ago, this was Agnel’s second gold at the eight-day long Barcelona championships after France won Sunday’s 4x100m freestyle final.
Just as he did in the London 2012 final, Agnel led from the first turn and was well clear of the field by the final length, leaving Dwyer, his training partner since moving to the US, in his wake.
“This is as beautiful as London,” said the 21- year- old Agnel. “I wasn’t expecting this. I said to myself I will swim as I did in London and see what happens.”
The towering Frenchman described it as “magic” to win the final by more than a second and claimed he had answered any critics of his move from France to Baltimore, to work with Bowman.
“I said even if I came back with silver I would still have answered them. To get gold provides them with an even better response. Perfect in fact,” he said.
Agnel said he is learning all the time from the man who masterminded Phelps’ record haul of eight gold medals at Beijing 2008 in a career which reaped 18 Olympic titles.
“Bob’s a great technician and a great man, the partnership is giving something special,” said Agnel.
“We have a very good team, good training sessions, a good coach, good conditions and beside that we are really relaxed.
“I was with Conor (Dwyer) a month ago and we said we were going to be first and second in Barcelona, and it finally happened.”
Having moved to Baltimore in June, Agnel said he is already enjoying the difference of living in the United States having parted company with French coach Fabrice Pellerin in May.
“It’s in the spirit, that way of thinking,” he said when asked of the main differences Stateside.
“In France, we are maybe too serious, we were at least for many years and we started to be successful when someone showed us the way and said you can win being cool.”
There was disappointment for Ryan Lochte, the 2011 world champion in Shanghai, who finished fourth, 1.44 behind Agnel.
“It wasn’t my night but I have to put it behind me because I still have many races to swim,” said the American star, who has 12 gold medals from previous world championships.
Izotov said he had felt some pressure to perform after swimming the anchor leg for Russia in Sunday’s 4x100m freestyle final and only anchoring the team home to bronze.
“It was a very hard race, I felt some pressure after the relay,” said the 21-year-old.
“My competitors were very strong and it’s a great pleasure to swim against them.
“I think I could do it better, but I am glad to have another bronze.”