PARIS, France, January 30. OLYMPIC champion Laure Manaudou is stepping away from the pool again, this time making a solemn promise that her retirement is permanent.
“Je jure que j'arrete,” Manaudou, 26, said Wednesday in an interview on the French primetime talk show Le Grand Journal. Loosely translated into English, Manaudou said “I swear I quit.”
Manaudou has good reason to leave the pool this time: She is expecting her second child with partner Fred Bousquet. The two welcomed a daughter, Manon, in April 2010.
In 2009, Manaudou first announced her retirement after a disappointing performance at the 2008 Olympics, where she failed to defend her 400 freestyle title and walked away from Beijing with no medals. But five months after giving birth to Manon, Manaudou was back in the water with an eye toward the 2012 Olympics. Though she did qualify for the French team at the London Games, she was unable to make it past the heats in the 100 and 200 backstrokes. The bright spot of that meet for Manaudou was watching younger brother Florent win gold in the 50 freestyle.
Manaudou's final competition was November's European short course championships, where she won the 50 backstroke and took silver in the 100 back.
“I think it was the right time to stop,” Manaudou said in the interview. “I was lucky to have a competition in France, the European Championships, and the chance to swim before the French public. I was successful but I do not know if I can still remain. This does not depend on me unfortunately. It is very difficult to stay the best.”
Manaudou remains the most accomplished female French swimmer in history, having won an Olympic medal of each color at the 2004 Olympics: gold in the 400 free, silver in the 800 free and bronze in the 100 back. In 2006, she broke the longstanding world record of 4:03.85 held by Janet Evans in the 400 free, swimming a 4:03.03. Two months later, she lowered it to 4:02.13.
Video of 400 free final from 2004 Olympics:
Her attention seemed to turn to the 200 freestyle in 2007, where she and rival Federica Pellegrini swapped world records at the world championships, with Manaudou claiming the world title and world record with a 1:55.52. Relationship troubles took precedent in the global media in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics, where Manaudou finished eighth in the 400 free and seventh in the 100 back.
Much of her success in the pool was under the tutelage of Philippe Lucas, but she had relocated to Auburn, Ala., after giving birth to follow Bousquet to his new training base. There, she worked her way to racing shape with the help of coach Brett Hawke.
Though the torch has been passed to Olympic champion Camille Muffat in the middle distance freestyle, Manaudou will remain a pioneer for women's swimming in France.