Florent Manaudou Wins 50 Free In 21.62 In Rennes; Leon Marchand Clinches Fifth Title

Maxime Grousset & Florent Manaudou
Maxime Grousset & Florent Manaudou: Photo Courtesy: KMSP/Stephane Kempinaire

Florent Manaudou earned a tilt at a second 50 free world title eight years after his first with a 21.62 victory ahead of Maxime Grousset at the French Championships in Rennes.

Leon Marchand made it five wins in as many races in the 400IM, Melanie Henique rattled the 50 fly rankings and Anastasia Kirpichnikova clinched her third title in the 800.

Manaudou scorched to the top of the rankings in a 21.56 prelim blast, his fastest time since the Tokyo Olympics where he secured silver in 21.55.

Grousset – with a best of 21.57 en-route to bronze at last year’s World Championships – booked lane five alongside the 32-year-old in 22.22.

But it was Manaudou – a medallist in the one-length race at each of the last three Olympics – who stopped the clock first, as sister Laure, the three-time Olympic medallist, looked on from the Rennes stands.

He won the 50 free/fly double at the 2015 Kazan World Championships in 21.19, still his PB and second all-time in the French rankings behind Fred Bousquet‘s 20.94.

Manaudou said through the French Federation:

“This title is a pleasure because it’s been a while since I had one.

“I’m a little disappointed not to swim a little faster but I wanted to change things and see how it would work.

“I’m really not off to a good start, I still have a lot of work to do for the World Championships.

“I’m in the process, I wanted to swim 21.5 in France to go to 21.3 at the Worlds.

“I had many, many races at 21.9, so I’m taking today.”

Florent Manaudou of France prepares to compete in the 50m Freestyle Men Final during the FINA Swimming Short Course World Championships at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre in Melbourne, Australia, December 17th, 2022. Photo Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

He paid tribute to Grousset, saying:

“Maxime is not just anyone. He’s one of my biggest competitors. very cool, we get along very well and we try to show the youngest that we are still there.

“It was cool to swim in front of Laure – it had been a while since she came to watch me swim. I hope she will be there next year.

“I don’t think she’s coming to Japan, it’s a bit far but in any case in Chartres (which hosts the 2024 French Championships), I hope she will be there.”

Grousset had rattled the 100 rankings in 47.62 to book his slot over two lengths in Fukuoka and will get a shot at the 50 with his 21.78 inside the cut.

He said:

“I think we both started feeling a bit uptight. I was not off to a very good start.
“It was a good duel and above all a good time. It’s cool to live because we are playing a world-class final. Before the world championships, it’s important to experience this kind of races. It was really good tonight.”

Marchand Makes It Five in Rennes

Leon Marchand produced an eye-watering 400IM at last year’s World Championships when he secured victory in a European record of 4:04.28.

It was the second-fastest time in history and just 0.48 outside Michael Phelps‘ world record of 4:03.80 from the 2008 Olympics.


Leon Marchand: Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Bob Bowman guided the American throughout his career and is now in the Frenchman’s corner with some predicting the WR would fall in Rennes, especially after his 2:06.59 blast in the 200 breaststroke.

A tilt will have to wait another day with Marchand admitting to fatigue and will leave Rennes with titles over 200m in the breaststroke (2:06.59, fourth all-time), butterfly (1:55.79), IM (1:56.25) and the free (1:46.44).

Add to that the 400IM in 4:10.57, 2.77secs outside his rankings-topping season’s best of 4:07.80 from the TYR Pro Swim Series Westmont.

Marchand said:

“It’s not easy to compete in a 400m medley after five days of competition.

“We had to work hard in the morning to be well placed this evening. I wanted to swim below 4:10 and unfortunately it doesn’t, but I was close.

“It stings especially since I’m not in my best shape at the moment. My family is present in the stands and that gives me a lot of strength. I try to use it also during my races.

“It’s good to be able to push when you’re not at your best.”

Henique Goes Joint-Fourth In 50 Fly Rankings; Treble For Kirpichnikova

Melanie Henique was 0.07 outside her national 50 fly record of 25.17 in 25.24 to add another event to her slate in Fukuoka having won the 50 free earlier in the meet.

It elevated her to joint fourth in 2023 alongside world champion Sarah Sjostrom, the Swede dominating the rankings which she heads in 24.89.

Marie Wattel was outside the cut in 26.07 but had already booked slots in the 50 and 100 free.

Melanie Henique

Melanie Henique: Photo Courtesy: KMSP/Stephane Kempinaire

Henique was happy and looked forward to Fukuoka despite the scheduling of the 50 fly final and 50 free semis on the penultimate evening and separated by minutes.

“I’m happy, I had a good race because this morning it was a little tough to finish and there, it seemed easier to me without breathing. I feel closer to the water, flatter.

“It’s my best time of the season and we’re targeting 24 seconds. We hope so.

“What I worked on in the 50m freestyle automatically transfers to the butterfly. I don’t necessarily need to work on it, I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s more natural.

“I feel that it is falling into place and it is pleasant…but the race will fall on the same day as the 50m free. The sequence of races is complicated for me, but in any case, it will be possible.

“We are prepared but not 100% for these championships. It feels really good to do these performances and I’m so happy to have won the 50m freestyle and butterfly. We’re coming back strong!”

Kirpichnikova added the 800 free to her 400 and 1500 titles in Rennes in 8:27.52 to earn her third swim in Fukuoka where she’ll represent France for the first time.

She had mixed feelings, saying:

“I’m happy but the time isn’t very good. I hope it will be better at the World Championships.

“Mentally it’s not easy because it’s been a long time since I competed in a competition with so much at stake.

“The most important will be the Worlds and I hope it will be better there. There are a lot of people in the crowd at this competition. I hope they think well of me.

“It’s really important to me. I hear them applaud me during my races and it does me a lot of good.”

Emma Terebo hit a PB of 2:09.49 into the final of the 200 back, a time she lowered to 2:09.35 in the evening to comfortably secure qualification.

Pauline Mahieu – who won the 100 back – was just 0.05 outside the cut in 2:11.09.

Terebo said:

“Already this morning it was a great relief to see that I was able to make time for the Worlds but we had to confirm it tonight and I’m really happy.

“There were moments of doubt after the 100m backstroke, but there was no time to question everything. I was determined, motivated, the 100m had given me a shock.

“I told myself that the 200m was in two days and that it was not over.

“I had to bounce back and show that it wasn’t the end. This morning, I said to myself that to restore my confidence and go calmly in the final, I had to get back in place.

“I was at full speed this morning, but easier than tonight. My goal in Fukuoka will be to reach the final, that’s all I’m aiming for.”



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