PARIS, June 2. ALENA Popchanka, who recently changed her citizenship from Belarussian to French, will be eligible to represent France in international competition beginning in November, according to the Web site of the French Swimming Federation. That much was determined when the Belarus Swimming Federation decided not to waive the one-year transfer period required by FINA when switching nationalities.
Popchanka married her coach, Frederic Vergnoux, earlier this year and became a French citizen last month. There was some hope she would have the opportunity to compete for France at this summer’s World Championships. At the 2003 World Champs, Popchanka won gold in the 200 freestyle.
Popchanka has firmly set her sights on representing France at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Her addition to the French roster will undoubtedly bolster relay squads, to the point where France should find itself in medal contention. Aside from Popchanka’s impending impact, France boasts the likes of Laure Manaudou, Malia Metella and Solenne Figues.
Manaudou was a triple-event medalist at the Athens Olympics while Metella won silver in the 50 free and Figues took bronze in the 200 free. Popchanka left Athens with an eighth-place showing in the 100 free and a semifinal appearance in the 200 free. She was also seventh in the 100 butterfly.