MULHOUSE, France, June 27. THE Old Man ain't quite ready for the scrap heap yet!
France's 33-year-old "ageless wonder," Franck Esposito, turned in another impressive performance on the final day of the Vittel Cup today with a seasonal best 52.85 100m butterfly, tying him for eighth on the yearly world list.
The veteran flyer, who Saturday splashed to his fastest yearly 200 fly (1:56.92), has now qualified in both events for Athens. He was ill at the French Olympic Trials in Dunkerque last April, didn't swim the 100 fly at all and only went a 1:58+ in the 200, far off his national and European record 1:54.62, set just over two years ago.
That time ranks Esposito second on the all-time world list (performers) and is fourth-fastest performance. Last year he ranked No. 1 globally (1:54.70) going into the World Championships but finished out of the money in Barcelona.
Esposito said he wanted to show the [Olympic] selectors that what happened at the Trials was not indicative of the state of his fitness and that his performances here proved he is still competitive at the highest level.
Esposito's NR in the 100 52.49 from the World Championship semifinals.
Looking at the current Top 10 100 fly list, there are several surprises. No. 3 with a NR from the Olympic Trials in early April is Great Britain's Todd Cooper, down from a 54+ last season. No. 4 is New Zealand's fast-improving Carney Swanepol, who similarly swam a NR at his country's Olympic Trials a few months ago.
Fifth is Japan's Takashi Yamamoto (52.58); Russia's Igor Marchenko (52.70), South Africa's Roland Schoeman (NR 52.73) and Brazil's Gabe Mangabeira (NR and South American record 52.76). Esposito's 52.85 follows, tying him with Japan's Ryo Takayashi.
Oh, did we omit No.'s 1 and 2? Ian Crocker leads with a 51.61 from last week's Texas Senior Circuit Championships in Austin, with 200 fly world record-holder, Michael Phelps, next with his 51.84 from the U.S. Nationals in mid-February at Orlando.
Schoeman is a former (2003) NCAA 50 free champ for Coach Frank Busch's University of Arizona Wildcats. He leads the world with his 21.98/48.28 50-100 frees from the South African Olympic Trials in Durban during early April, with his one-lapper a Commonwealth record too (not to mention African). His 100 is .02 off Michael Klim's Commonwealth standard of 48.18 that he swam leading off Australia's gold medal-winning 400 free relay at Sydney.
On the all-time performers' list, 48.18 ranks Klim second with Schoeman third. On the performances' side the Netherland's Pieter van den Hoogenband, defending Olympic champ, has three sub 48s, so Klim is fourth and Schoeman's close behind with the fifth-fastest clocking ever.
Schoeman first rose to prominence when he set a U.S. Open record in the 50 meter free at the Nationals in Minneapolis in the summer of 1999. Gary Hall, who tied with Ervin for the gold in the 50 at Sydney, subsequently broke the record with his 21.76 at the Olympic Trials the following year — still the world's second-quickest 50 (performer-performance).
The world-record belongs to Russia's Alexander Popov, like Esposito another "graybeard" at 33, who went 21.64 at the Olympic Trials in Moscow four years ago. However, Popov's time was done solo in a special time trial so Hall's swim is fastest-ever in competition.
Mangabeira is another U.S.-trained collegian, having been a stellar performer for Coach Greg Troy's Florida Gators.
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Two French woman swam well at Mulhouse today with 200 free record-holder Solene Figues winning her specialty in 1:59.02; and Aurore Mongel going 2:12.09 for the 200 fly. Figues went a pr/NR 1:58.36 during the Trials and ranks fourth globally. Mongel did an NR 2:11.49 and ranks ninth.
Freestyler Nicolas Rostoucher, 23, also showed good form in the 400 free (3:52+). He holds the French record with his 3:49.35 from last season, finishing 2003 ranking ninth globally. He's also record-holder in the 800-1500 with 2003 times of 7:56.79/15:06.72.
With Esposito, sprinter-flyer Fred Bousquet (the Auburn University junior-to-be who's world record-holder in the short course 50 freestyle), Rostoucher, breaststrokers Hugues Duboscq (1:01.98) and Yohan Bernard (2:11.77 in '02) backstrokers Pierre Roger (54.89 in '02) and Simon Dufour(NR 1:57.90 last year, sixth globally), La Belle France could bring home some hardware from Athens.
On the women's side, freestyler-backstroker Laure Manadou is a medal-contender in several events, especially the 100 back, where her 1:00.64 from the Trials is No. 1 globally; and Mongel's been 58+ in the 100 fly, 54.4 in the 100 free plus 25.0 in the 50. Figues at 1:58.3 still needs to drop at least a second to be in medal-contention ,but that's not at all an insurmountable obstacle for her.