FRANCE’S NEW SWIMMING superstar Yannick Agnel has admitted his gold medals in the London pool have left him feeling like an “alien” as he adjusts to life as an Olympic champion.
Having anchored the French team with a stunning display in the 4x100m freestyle relay to touch out US sensation Ryan Lochte and claim gold on Sunday, Agnel underlined his growing status with victory in the 200m freestyle final last night.
It prompted French President Francois Hollande to come down from the stands to meet Agnel in the mixed zone to tell him how “very proud” France were of their new Olympic hero.
Paris may have lost out on hosting the 2012 Games, but the French are having their revenge in the pool with three golds after Agnel’s title, the relay win and Camille Muffat’s success in the women’s 400m freestyle.
More success could follow for Agnel in the 50m and 100m freestyle, with the 4x200m freestyle relay still to come.
“Since last night, I feel like an alien! It is quite funny and cool,” said Agnel. “I think it will take until the end of the week to think about what has happened.”
Having been advised by Hollande not to neglect his studies, Agnel is working towards his masters in International Business at university in Nice and has ambitions to study in the United States.
Agnel was a rarity at the European short-course championships in December 2009 when, as a forward-thinking 16-year-old, he insisted on wearing traditional swimming trunks.
His rivals were clad in super fast high-tech suits, but Agnel insisted he wanted to feel normal in the water, with the suits banned from competitions after the championships in Istanbul.
Agnel told the French media he wanted to be an Olympic champion nearly two years ago and the 6ft 7in (2.02m) swimmer has backed up on his words at London’s Aquatics Centre.
Having overhauled Lochte in the relay, Agnel made his freestyle rivals take note, with Brazil’s world record holder Cesar Cielo nominating him as the man to beat.
“He’s my favourite,” Cielo said of Agnel after this morning’s 100m freestyle heats. “I think he’s the guy to win the gold medal.
“He had a great 200 last night and he swam great in the relay, so he’s in the mood and I think he’s going to be very tough to stop.”