By Alan Baldwin
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Rio will be the last Olympics for 2012 double gold medalist Yannick Agnel after the French swimmer failed to defend his 200 meters freestyle title on Sunday and announced his imminent retirement.
"This is my last international competition," the 24-year-old told French media after finishing 19th overall in Sunday's preliminary heats with only the top 16 going through to the semi-finals.
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"If I continue four years like the past four years, you will find me between four planks."
Agnel won gold in both the individual 200 and 4x100 relay in London four years ago as well as a silver in the 4x200. He has still to compete in the latter relay in Rio but has no more individual events.
His place at the Olympics had been in doubt earlier in the year when he came third behind Jeremy Stravius and Jordan Pothain in the French trials after failing to touch the finishing pad correctly.
Only the first two qualified but Pothain provided an opening by deciding to enter the 400 freestyle instead.
"I am disappointed, very disappointed," he said of his performance on Sunday. "But I gave everything, I really did my maximum today. I did everything I could.
"It was already a victory in itself to be here, to show everybody that despite everything I could change my luck and be competitive.
"That's what I tried today and even if it didn't happen, I'm happy to be here and have tried to defend my title," said the swimmer, who also won two golds at the 2013 world championships.
Agnel missed last year's world championships in Russia due to a lung infection.
He was also hard hit by the death of close friend and training partner Camille Muffat in a helicopter accident while she was filming a reality TV show in Argentina in March 2015.
Muffat was the women's Olympic 400 meter freestyle champion in 2012. The final for the event at Rio will be held later on Sunday, with Katie Ledecky of the United States favorite to take that title.
Agnel's London 2012 winning time makes him still the third fastest swimmer in the 200 freestyle behind Michael Phelps of the U.S. and German world record holder Paul Biedermann.
His time of one minute, 43.14 remains the fastest in a textile suit.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin Editing by Alison Williams)