LONDON – Yannick Agnel shredded a star-studded field to win the men’s 200m freestyle gold on Monday, one day after his sensational swim gave France the Olympic 4x100m freestyle title.
Agnel won France’s third swimming gold of the Games in 1min 43.14sec as Asian rivals Park Tae-Hwan of South Korea and Sun Yang of China fought to a tie for silver behind him in 1:44.93 — 1.79sec adrift.
“I looked at the clock twice to make sure it was correct,” Agnel said. “I was surprised by the time.”
Reigning world champion Ryan Lochte, a dominant winner in the men’s 400m medley, was relegated to fourth place and world record-holder Paul Biedermann of Germany fifth.
It was Agnel’s second straight victory over US star Lochte, who was anchoring the US 4x100m freestyle relay on Sunday when Agnel surged past him in the final 50m to give France the gold medal — avenging their narrow loss to the Americans four years earlier in Beijing.
“He is a great racer, there is no doubt about it,” Lochte said of Agnel. “He’s quick, he showed it last night and again tonight. He did good.”
Lochte said Agnel was just too fast.
“I put everything in, I guess it just wasn’t there,” Lochte said. “This is one of the deepest fields, from first to eighth there is a second’s difference.”
For Sun and Park there was no distance at all.
Sun, the 1500m freestyle world record-holder who played down his medal hopes in the 200m, added silver to his 400m freestyle gold.
“I am really happy with the result,” Sun said. “I have to confess this is my first time for the 200m.
“This is the first time the Chinese are competing in the 200m freestyle, we never dreamed of being on the podium,” added Sun, who also thought the shorter race was a good preparation for his 1,500m campaign later in the week.
“We have a clear target to pursue and this is a huge boost to Chinese swimming.”
Park’s silver was his second of the week, the first coming behind Sun in the 400m free. The South Korean, who won 400m gold in Beijing, said he felt a physical disadvantage against the big bodies dominating the 200m free.
“It’s not easy to compete with athletes bigger than me, as they are stronger,” he said. “My coach has made me focus on speed since 2009 which helps me cope with bigger swimmers.”
Agnel, whose performance earned a congratulatory chat with French President Francois Hollande in the mixed zone near the pool deck, thanked Sun and Park “for making it such a tough race”.
He made it look easy, but said it was anything but.
“There were realy strong swimmers in the pool,” Agnel said. “It is probably the hardest final of the Olympic Games.”