Florent Manaudou, Muscle & Might Return To Championship Waters On Comeback Trail

Florent Manaudou - Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Florent Manaudou, the Olympic 50m freestyle champion of 2012, returns to Championship waters this week for the first time since he made his comeback to swimming in March.

Manaudou will restrict his solo races at the five-day European Short-Course Championships that get underway in Glasgow, Scotland, tomorrow (Wednesday), to three dashes in a season he signed a three-diamonds deal with arena.

The 29-year-old enters the 50m freestyle, 50m butterfly and 50m backstroke as a gold-medal shot for France. He will also stand up with mates in at least four relays, his hefty presence – 1.99m, 99 kg – in any sprint bout like a Glaswegian kiss delivered with technical precision in a pub brawl.

The last time Manaudou raced at the European winter showcase, back in 2012 as a newly crowned Olympic champion on the crest of a wave, he claimed five golds. At home in Chartres in his first season of winning medals for France, he triumphed in the 50m freestyle and helped Les Bleus to four relay titles, in the 4×50m freestyle, the 4×50m medley, the then new 4×50m mixed free and 4×50m mixed medley.

On International Swimming League duty for Energy Standard in the past two months, Manaudou has shown that he lost none of the Midas touch and might that characterised his first career. Between five titles at the European long-course championships in 2012 on the way to London 2012 gold over 50m freestyle to two silvers, in the 50m free and 4x100m free, at the Rio 2016 Olympics, Manaudou amassed 27 podium honours for France, including 19 titles, among them seven global crowns, three in long-course, and 11 continental crowns, six of them long-course.

Manaudou’s London 2012 win made him and sister Laure Manaudou, the 2004 Olympic champion over 400m freestyle, the first swim siblings to claim Olympic gold in solo events. He quit the sport after the 2016 Olympic Games, at which Anthony Ervin, the American champion of Sydney 2000, became the oldest Olympic swim king in history with a 21.40 to 21.41 victory over the Frenchman in the dash.

Away from the pool, he honed his guitar skills, opened a restaurant called La Piscine in Marseille and made a decent job of becoming a division 2 handball player for PAUC (Pays d’Aix Université Club handball).

Florent Manaudou Foto Gian Mattia D'Alberto/LaPresse 06 Ottobre 2019 Indianapolis, Stati Uniti sport nuoto 2019 ISL - International Swimming League, la seconda giornata a Indianapolis Nella foto: Florent Manaudou FRA Photo Gian Mattia D'Alberto/LaPresse October 6, 2019 Indianapolis, United States sport swimming 2019 ISL - International Swimming League, the second day in Indianapolis In the picture: Florent Manaudou FRA

Florent Manaudou – back in the aquatic arena Photo Courtesy: Gian Mattia D’Alberto/LaPresse

Two and a half years of playing handball helped Manaudou “realise I missed the water and what I was best at doing”, he said on his return to swimming.”

When asked by La Provence if he missed handball, Manaudou replied:

“Of course I miss it. I prefer to play handball than swim: it’s more fun. But I excelled in swimming. I think I wasn’t bad at handball but it’s complicated to make up for 15 years without playing.”

He might have turned professional in his new sport but then the old one and the water called him back to be a pro in another realm at the dawn of a new Pro-Team era in the pool.

Manaudou’s time in handball had helped him to rejuvenate his love of swimming: “I was able to live my dream of playing in division 2 while training with the pros. That allowed me to freshen up, get away from the tumult of journalists. It did me good. I enjoy swimming much more now as a result.”

In the short-course pool, Florent Manaudou still holds World records in the 50m freestyle (20.26, 2014 World s/c Championships for gold) and 50 back (22.22, same event as the freestyle record).

Fast forward five years and last month in London at the ISL’s European Derby back in the pool of his greatest victory, Manaudou was back down to 20.57 on freestyle and 23.31 on breaststroke. Unrested.

Manaudou’s win over Morozov at the European Derby of the ISL in London last month:

Now training part-time at home in Marseille with coach Julien Jacquier, and part-time away with the coach who guided him to London 2012, James Gibson, at Energy’s base in Antalya, Turkey, Manaudou is expected to be sharper yet in Glasgow this week.

There are some fine clashes in prospect even though the meet will fall shy of the full force of European potential: Manaudou’s Energy teammate and British rival Ben Proud will not race in Glasgow, where the entry reflects both pre-Olympic season and the dawn of the ISL, which concludes in Las Vegas on December 20-21.

Russian rival Vladimir Morozov, who excelled in League skins this inaugural season, will be there, and “has set his sights on breaking the world record at the LEN European Short Course Swimming Championships in Glasgow next month”, according to Glasgow organisers. Manaudou and Manaudou’s freestyle record in play, Manaudou there to have something to say about it.

A quick taste of the kind of speed Florent Manaudou musters:

Florent Manaudou’s Journey Back To The Water From Handball

In an interview with La Provence, Manaudou said that his comeback was geared to Tokyo 2020. He wants gold, no less, in the 50m free once more but says the approach this time round is “a max of fun and to swim fast”.

He recognised that he had “competitors who are, for the moment, faster than me. Right now, I’m trying to do the things that will help me to beat them.”

Sharing time between Marseille and Turkey, coaches Jacquier and Gibson, was important to him from the get go:

“I need to change, to freshen up a bit. Even in terms of skills, I like to draw from everywhere. I think I have enough experience to take the good parts of everyone. For now, it works well. I just need to be careful not to overdo the travel fatigue.”

Florent Manadou

Energy Standard’s Florent Manaudou was quickest in the European Derby in the 50 freestyle.

At the time of speaking he was back in France after three weeks away in Turkey and noted: “I had to do lots of things yesterday because I was not here for three weeks … bank, post … And I now swim all day. Again, it’s not ideal to perform, but I’m not here for that. Just to be with the team.”

Energy’s program in Turkey, said Manaudou, was where the difference was being made: “I swim with swimmers who are very good. We are four Olympic champions there. I also have a direct competitor (Proud). I also have the opportunity to rest a lot out there. I’m at the hotel, I do not think about everyday tasks. Everything is focussed on performance.”

Returning home after intensive periods of training was also critical. Said Manaudou: “I’m 29 …I’ve seen another side of life. I need to see my friends, my family and enjoy the cool stuff of life. I have a good life: I can’t stay cooped up all year in the same hotel if I really want to win at the Olympic Games.”

The arrival of the ISL had also drawn him back to the pool, he told Swimming World on League tour in October and November:

“It’s good for us. It’s like the club, a team competition. Swimming is not the most fun sport in the world, but its’ good for use to be part of a team doing new things, it’s nice for us. They also can earn a little more money, that’s pretty cool. It is not a sport with a lot of prize money, then this also counts. In addition, we can race with the best all year round … Swimming is an old sport, it is not easy to innovate: there are two walls, swimmers, a timing pad – and it’s hard. Konstantin [Grigorishin, ISL founder and funder], who launched the event, is very good. It is also the first year. This will improve gradually.”

The ISL fits in with Manaudou’s approach to Tokyo 2020, too. “This winter, the goal is lots of racing and get back the race habit through swimming with friends, competing against the best. Then, from January until the Olympic trials, I’ll be working on endurance but will still compete because I didn’t come back to swimming just to train. I love to race.”

As we will see this week in Glasgow.

The European Championships promo:

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