Comment nageurs et pistards ont redressé la barre pour préparer Paris 2024

Comment nageurs et pistards ont redressé la barre pour préparer Paris 2024

A silver medal for Florent Manaudou (50m freestyle) on the one hand. Two bronze charms on the other (team speed and the American-style Benjamin Thomas – Donavan Grondin duo). Swimming and track cycling, once a net contributor to French Olympics, returned with very light bags from the Tokyo Games last year. Shameful, three years from the Paris Olympics, presented to the top of the state as the ultimate goal of any self-respecting tricolor athlete.

In addition, the success of the two disciplines during the current European Championships encourages a certain optimism as the unavoidable event approaches: swimming announced Tuesday night in Rome, nine medals, including three titles. 900 km further north, in Munich, track cycling collected fifteen charms, six of which were gold.

So yeah, we see you coming. These are “only” euros, an observation that is especially valid on the pool side, where American and Australian cannibals are by definition absent. Not to mention the Russians, excluded in the context of the invasion of Ukraine. And among the trackers, some tenors have skipped the Bavarian rally that falls two months before the big World Cup event in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (October 12-16) whether it be among the formidable British, Italians or Dutch people.

An improvement already noticed in the World Cup.

But finally, these results confirm the improvement observed at the Budapest World Championships in swimming in June (eight medals) and those in Roubaix last October in track cycling (six medals and a fourth place in the ranking of nations). The long-awaited succession is coming of age. “We are a young generation that is rising,” Melvin Landerneau dropped on Monday after his kilometer title, three days after silver in team speed. We have a fairly young team. with sebastian [Vigier, médaillé d’or en vitesse individuelle et en keirin], we are 25 years old and we are the two oldest. »

Small correction: Crowned for the third time in his career in the points race after gold in the team pursuit, Benjamin Thomas will turn 27 in September. But the Cofidis rider, just as comfortable on the road where he nearly won the Carcassonne stage during the last Tour de France, will still be at his best two years from now in Paris, just like his younger brothers Mathilde Gros and Clara Copponi (both 23 years old). , respectively silver in Munich in individual speed and omnium. And what about Donavan Grondin (22 years old in September), entitled in omnium…

Léon Marchand, 20 years old and already a world star

In the basins there is no longer talk of hope for Léon Marchand, despite his 20 years. The promises sown in Tokyo (6th in the 400m medley final) by the Toulouse exiled in the United States germinated in Budapest during the World Championships in June: two titles in the 400m medley and 200m medley, plus the silver in the 200m butterfly won by the protégé of Bob Bowman, ex-mentor of Michael Phelps, the title of best swimmer in the competition, the male counterpart of the incredible American Katie Ledecky.

Absent from the Roman euro (to favor their return to university in Arizona), like the “old” Florent Manaudou and Mélanie Henique, Marchand sees Yoann Ndoye Brouard, Maxime Grousset, Analia Pigrée and Marie Wattel, the offspring of “Newspaper Delivery Boy 2024”. This plan launched by the FFN in September 2015 aimed to create a better network of the national territory, including overseas territories, to support future talent at the highest level and “create a collective of swimmers and coaches who work and build a team spirit together”. , as Deputy Director Jean-Lionel Rey explained at the time.

French swimming, which only a few months later would win two silver medals at the Rio Games, had already begun its return to normality after several crazy Olympics, led by exceptional profiles (Laure then Florent Manaudou, Alain Bernard, Yannick Agnel, Camille Muffat…).

“We are in a period of transition, he explained during the Tokyo Games in The cross former swimmer Sophie Kamoun. Compare with the London Olympics [7 médailles dont quatre titres] It would be a mistake. It was an extraordinary generation that did not reflect the structural level of our delegation. »

Upside down frames for Paris 2024

Difficult to talk about the current “extraordinary generation” Habs again, Marchand aside. But the Fed seems determined to get out of the Franco-French disputes that poisoned relations in and out of the water, choosing for the first time in 2021 a foreigner to finally supervise Bleus et Bleues: the Dutchman Jacco Verhaeren who led a certain Pieter van den Hoogenband before heading out to successfully straighten out the Australian swim.

« L’avantage en venant de l’extérieur, c’est que vous ne portez pas le poids de la culture et de l’histoire de ce qui a été fait avant, expliquait le director des équipes de France à Olympics.com, au month of June. You are not responsible for everything that worked and didn’t work in the past, and it really allows you to start over. »

Jacco Verhaeren, the Dutchman in charge of the French teams, during the European Swimming Championships in Rome, on August 15, 2022.
Jacco Verhaeren, the Dutchman in charge of the French teams, during the European Swimming Championships in Rome, August 15, 2022. – Alberto Pizzoli / AFP

Verhaeren, of course, was appointed with a view to the sacrosanct Paris Games, like Grégory Baugé in track cycling last March. The Guadeloupean is the new national sprint coach, while his former coach Florian Rousseau became the director of the French cycling teams’ Olympic program in the fall of 2021. These two big names in the discipline refer to the best hours of the French track, which dominated the world since the late 1990s before fading for a good decade.

“France has rested on its laurels and is no longer scary,” laments seven-time world champion François Pervis, consultant for France Télévisions, at France Info. We were happy to keep up our level, but over time, the rest of us they caught up and even overtook us. “Some nations have gone all out for technological upgrading,” he adds. Look at the British, who work with engineers from Lotus or McLaren, they have incredible budgets. It is difficult to compete with them. »

But the new generation is working on it and will try to prove it again this fall at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines. Track runners and swimmers can hold legitimate hopes for the next Games at home. We would like to write so much about athletics.


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