PARIS, December 7. LAURE Manaudou, the 17-year-old Olympic 400 meters freestyle champion, has withdrawn from the European short-course championships, in Vienna this week, and is threatening to abandon France for the Netherlands after the worth of the world record she established over 1,500 metres last month was called into question.
Both Manaudou, whose mother is Dutch, and her coach Philippe Lucas, refused to attend a meeting on Monday called by the French federation to resolve a crisis that erupted when Claude Faquet, technical director of French swimming, played down Manaudou's short-course record of 15:42.39, set on November 20 at La Roche Sur Yon.
Explaining that the 1,500 meters in a short-course pool is not a distance that women often compete at and was therefore not something to get too excited about, Faquet indicated that the turbulence-free conditions at La Roche had contributed to Manaudou's fast time. Using what in French is a play on words, he told L'Equipe: "The swimmers made their mark in the water but in the pool there was no turbulence."
That Manaudou and Lucas took umbrage should come as no surprise: the swimmer's Olympic title was the first won in the pool by France since 1952 and the first ever by a French woman, while her silver medal over 800 meters helped to lift her nation to its finest Olympic result in the pool in history.
The 1,500 meters record also removed from the books the last standard held by an East German, namely Petra Schneider since 1982.
Manaudou said she had no appetite to compete for France in Vienna "after reading that my record was worthless." Asked how she thought the crisis would pan out, she said: "We'll see. I am 50 percent Dutch. I could always swim for Holland."
Lucas added: "Laure will not wear French colors again as long as Fauquet remains (as technical director)."
In something of an understatement, Manaudou believed she could win a medal in Vienna but said: "I don't see why I should go and swim for him after he's put me down. It's hard to see people from the federation speaking like that. Even more so when it's a world record."
Fauquet said that he could "not understand the violence of the reaction" from Manaudou and Lucas. "I never called into question the validity of Laure's record. I would like to meet them to explain the context in which I made those comments."
Today, Francis Luyce, the president of the federation, was still ttempting to call the parties together and persuade Manaudou to compete in Vienna Beginning Thursday.