Tokyo Olympics: in the basins, a French team in transition

But where is French swimming? At the bottom of the wave, the less optimistic will answer. In promising recomposition for the Olympics in Paris 2024, will analyze the others.

The start of the Tokyo Olympics clearly demonstrated this ambivalence. Les Bleues in the 4 x 100-meter relay failed in the playoffs on Saturday July 24, signing the 10e time on 15 shifts. But on Sunday, the men’s team qualified for the final, scheduled for Monday at 5 a.m. KST. And Marie Wattel, 24, broke the French record for the 100m butterfly in the semifinals. She is competing for a medal this Monday at 3:30 a.m.

→ LARGE FORMAT. Tokyo Olympics: Mélina Robert-Michon, everything for a gold record

The London Games raid in 2012 seems far away. The French had gleaned 7 medals in freestyle there, including four in gold. Before going through a slump, four years later, in Rio: only two silver medals, and tensions have come to light. The worst record since the Sydney Games in 2000.

Today we are in a period of transition, poses Sophie Kamoun, former Olympic finalist in swimming, consultant for RMC during the Tokyo Games. To compare with the London Olympics would be a mistake. It was an extraordinary generation that did not reflect the structural level of our delegation. “

Questions about the level of Florent Manaudou

So this year, the federation does not prefer to advance a goal. ” It’s complicated to project yourself, explains Julien Issoulié, the national technical director. I’m not going to talk about medals. The goal is to have as many athletes as possible in the finals. Then everything is open. “

The main uncertainty: the level of the juggernaut Florent Manaudou. The 30-something isn’t as domineering in sprinting as in past years, when he won a gold medal in London and a silver in Rio, in 2016. That was before he left the pools for three years to try handball. Alas, his latest performances are not really reassuring: 5e of the European Championships in Budapest in May, 2e of the French championship in Chartres in June.

Among women, in addition to Marie Wattel, also aligned in 50 m and 100 m freestyle, Mélanie Henique, 28, dreams of shining. In silver in the 50m butterfly – a non-Olympic discipline – in Budapest, she broke the French record in the 50m freestyle in December.

The promising Léon Marchand, 19 years old

This seasoned generation, which also includes Charlotte Bonnet and Mehdy Metella, is also seeing the arrival of a series of young talents like Léon Marchand, 19 years old. Son of two former international swimmers, he signed a promising 6e place Sunday in the final of the 400m medley.

“We are in a mixture of generations. Half of the French Olympic team is made up of young people for whom these are the first Games, notes Sophie Kamoun. They have more of 2024 for objective and were able to take advantage of the opportunity of the postponement to qualify in Tokyo. “

“There are a lot of young people who are hungry. “

Maxime Grousset, 22, is part of this young guard. It was he who dethroned Manaudou in the 50m at the French championships and will be at the start of the 100m freestyle (Tuesday, July 27) and the 50m (Friday). On Sunday, Yohann Ndoye Brouard (20) and his great rival Mewen Tomac (19) qualified for the semi-finals of the 100m backstroke, scheduled for Monday at 4:30 am. “Young people are coming in force”, released the first, all smiles, after the finish. He is already the fifth French performer in history over 100 m backstroke, the other triple champion of France.

→ READ. Tokyo Olympics open without pomp

“These young people are aiming for an Olympic final but, in the back of their minds, there is the hope of winning a medal, Sophie Kamoun warns. They are totally uninhibited. “ Florent Manaudou, co-captain of the team, confirmed this at a press conference before the start of the competition: “There are a lot of young people who are hungry. I can’t wait to see what they do. “


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