By John Lohn
NANCY, France, April 12. AS the World Championship Trials season continues, France is next on the docket. The French National Championships, poised to produce some solid times, are set to begin Wednesday and will run through Sunday.
Laure Manaudou and Fred Bousquet are the headlining athletes entered in the competition, with Manaudou set to begin her medal march toward Montreal, site of this summer’s World Champs. The triple-medalist from the Athens Olympics, Manaudou is the top seed in the 400-1,500 freestyle events and the 100 backstroke and is also listed as the third seed in the 200 free.
In Athens last summer, Manaudou packaged a spectacular week, as she claimed gold in the 400 freestyle and earned silver in the 800 free. She also claimed bronze in the 100 backstroke and was the runner-up to Yana Klochkova for European Swimmer of the Year, as selected by Swimming World.
As for Bousquet, the question is whether the Auburn University standout can maintain his excellence from last month’s NCAA Championships, where he became the first man in history to crack the 19-second barrier in the 50-yard freestyle. Bousquet is the top seed in the 100 free, 50 butterfly and 100 fly and is seeded second in the 50 free, behind Algeria’s Salim Iles.
Also keep an eye on the triumvirate of Malia Metella, Solenne Figues and Hugues Duboscq. All three won medals at the Athens Games, where Metella emerged with a silver medal in the women’s 50 free and a fourth-place showing in the 100 free. As for Figues and Duboscq, they won bronze medals in the women’s 200 freestyle and men’s 100 breaststroke, respectively.