a year before the Paris 2024 Olympics, the Blues returned to the deep in Japan

Tokyo, summer 2021. French swimming has hit the bottom of the pool. A single medal brought back from the Olympics by his colossus, Florent Manaudou, over 50 m (three individual Olympic pendants in as many editions) who, adorning himself with silver, avoids the zero point. But the 2012 Olympic champion alone cannot prevent the French team from breaking its worst record since the 2000 Sydney Games.

Already mired in controversies and internal wars during the Rio shipwreck in 2016 – the poor sporting performance, with only two medals in the Carioca basins, plus the settling of scores between swimmers and coaches – French swimming is only a shadow of itself. The golden age (between 2004 and 2013) is truly over.

Since then, the Azzurri have raised their heads above water: 8 podiums (3 female, 5 male), including two coronations, at the World Cup in Budapest in June 2022, then 13 medals, including three gold, at the European Championships, in Rome, a few weeks later. The Italian delegation – 21 individual swimmers, 32 in total counting the relays – arrives at the Fukuoka World Championships (from 23 to 30 July) with the ambition of confirming the momentum started and the promises, one year before the Paris Games. Although the competition should logically be more intense as the final deadline approaches, despite the absence of Russian and Belarusian swimmers for the second consecutive year.

Read also the interview (2019): Article reserved for our subscribers Florent Manaudou: “I don’t want to be seen as the savior of France”

In Japan, “The goal is to bring as many people to the finals. The true performance indicator is the number of finalists before the Games, he insists Julien Issoulié, national technical director (DTN). When you look at history and statistics, World Cup medalists aren’t necessarily Games medalists, but Games medalists are generally among the World Cup finalists.”

Florent Manaudou’s latest challenge

Guided by their new Léon Marchand locomotive, crowned in Budapest twice world champion in the 400m and 200m medley, and vice-world champion in the 200m butterfly, the French clan is aware that the safest route to Paris 2024 lies through a successful stopover in Japan.

At 32, Florent Manaudou has embarked on the last challenge – at home – of his swimming career. Returning empty-handed from Budapest and plagued by doubts throughout 2022, the Blues captain reassured himself by delivering his best 50m performance of the year (21 sec 56) at the French championships in Rennes in mid-June, before Australia’s Cameron McEvoy (21 sec 27) and American Ryan Held (21 sec 50) went one better in their respective selections.

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