PARIS, December 10. IN the last few years, France's swimming fortunes have risen steadily. With the likes of Laure Monaudou, Matalia Metella and Solenne Figues, the French women in particular are establishing themselves as a force with which to be reckoned.
Today, French fortunes were boosted even further when Alena Popchanka of Belarus, the women's 200m freestyle world champion in 2003, revealed that she is changing nationality and transferring her allegiance to France with an eye on competing at the 2008 Olympic Games.
The reason: She plans to marry her French coach and boyfriend Frederic Vergnoux, a SwimInfo correspondent, early next year.
"I will thus obtain French nationality … which would allow me to join the French team," she said.
"I want to swim at least until the 2008 Olympic Games in the colors of France," said the 25-year-old.
FINA regulations require that an athlete changing sport nationality may not compete for her former country for a period of one year after filing a request to transfer nationalities. Thus, Popchanka would be eligible to compete for France late in 2005 if she meets a series of additional requirements.
"I've lived in France for three years," Popchanka said. "I've learned to appreciate this country and French swimming. I've found a welcoming land and I intend to make my life here."