REPORTAGE. Championnats d’Europe de natation : comment les sprinteurs français se sont adaptés à la piscine en plein air de Rome

REPORTAGE. Championnats d'Europe de natation : comment les sprinteurs français se sont adaptés à la piscine en plein air de Rome

The heat, the wind and even a few drops of rain… These parameters must be taken into account from the first day of the European Swimming Championships, on Thursday, August 11, at the Rome nautical stadium. If the last World Cups in Budapest were held, as is often the case, in a covered venue, this is not the case with the continental edition. Three tiers surround the 50-meter pool completely open to the sky of the Eternal City.

You have to go back to 2010, in Budapest, to see the European Swimming Championships in long outdoor pools, when the World Championships hadn’t seen the light of day since… Rome, in 2009. Finally, the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens were the last to see the swimmers take off in the sun.

More than a decade has passed, but if swimmers are used to training in these outdoor conditions, the French team has prepared accordingly ahead of the competition. The entire tricolor delegation thus spent a week in Vichy (Allier) in open-air swimming pools, in particular to adapt to the conditions in Rome, where the mercury has been struggling to drop below 30° since Thursday.

It was very hot in Vichy with a noticeably 40°C day, so that prepared us well. There is a necessary time for adaptation. For other athletes, it can be difficult to manage because it consumes a lot of energy.“, details Marie Wattel, lined up in the 50m and 100m butterfly.

The swimmers competing for the European Championships in Rome train on Wednesday, August 10, 2022, on the eve of the start of the competition.  (Emmanuel Rupied)

The rubbish bins scattered around the basin and filled to the point of overflowing at times with bottles of water provided by the organization can testify to this: the heat hits the organizations in Rome. If the water temperature remains the same (between 25 and 28°C), as imposed by the International Swimming Federation (English PDF)Around the pools, the covered rooms allow the same temperature in the air to be maintained throughout the competition so that the swimmers do not suffer thermal shock.

The heat also affects the respiratory level during the race. In an indoor pool, these things, you don’t think about it,” supports Michel Chrétien, coach of sprinter Maxime Grousset and backstroke swimmer Yohann Ndoye Brouard.

The new European champion in the 200m backstroke is especially worried because he faces the sun throughout the race. Accustomed to being located thanks to LED bulbs in the ceilings of the rooms like all backup players, the Frenchman has found a trick. “A cable has been installed between lines 4 and 5 and allows you to orient yourself, he says. The objective is clearly to mark the times to be in these lanes.”

“For rear runners, you have to pay more attention to the line [de course]. We probably swim less straight than indoors, but it’s the same for everyone.”adds Camille Lacourt, triple world champion in the 50 meter backstroke.

The swimmer from Annecy is also a special case because he suffers from a keratoconus, a degenerative eye disease that causes vision problems. An operation in September made it possible to stop its development. The swimmer wears goggles in your sight in the water. Clear as always, they are tinted in Rome so they are not bothered by the sun.

The heat, on the other hand, does not matter to the French. Imperial in the 200m backstroke to start with a first golden charm, the Savoyard took advantage of the confidence gained throughout the outdoor season. “In Canet, I did my best time of the season (with 53″15 in the 100m backstroke, a time that improved in the World Championship, with a time of 52″50) for not being sharp. He then redid a week of training in Amiens and Vichy with the Blues.

If the Romanian David Popovici did not seem disturbed in the 100 free meters with world record (46’86) in the final and continental title on Saturday, the butterfly also requires time to acclimatize.when it’s windy, the arms can be a little restless,” explains Marie Wattel, who however does not want to make excuses. We are all in the same boat. We are elite athletes so we have to know how to adapt.“Adaptation is the key word here in Rome.

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