"On peut s'attendre à des podiums" pour les Français, assure Camille Lacourt

“On peut s’attendre à des podiums” pour les Français, assure Camille Lacourt

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A busy summer in the pools. Two years before the Paris Olympics, French swimmers will rub shoulders with the gratin of swimming, and even more often than once. In less than two months, the Blues will follow the Worlds in Budapest (from June 18 to 25), then the European Championships in Rome (from August 11 to 17). For some, it’s an opportunity to win their first long-term selection; for others, the objective is to enrich their record.

With only one medal gleaned in Tokyo, that in silver of Florent Manaudou on 50 meters freestyle, French swimming had known dull Olympics. Where are the Blues? Camille Lacourt, multiple medalist at the European and World Championships, now a consultant for France Télévisions, returns for franceinfo: sport to the importance of the Hungarian stage, especially for the new generation.

Franceinfo: sport: With 14 boys and 7 girls involved, the French selection displays a partly renewed face. What do you think of the new generation?

Camille Lacourt: Many young people are rising. This is a generation that took a little time to be born compared to the previous one. She needed to grow, evolve and mature.

Since the sports retreats of your golden generation (Laure Manaudou, Alain Bernard, Yannick Agnel, Jérémy Stravius…), French swimming has struggled to bounce back. How to explain this generation gap?

Our golden generation was a miracle. In France, everyone believed that, as it had happened once, it was not going to stop. Unfortunately, swimming does not have the breeding ground of football, there are not as many football stadiums as there are swimming pools, it is not easy to get flexible timetables. Everything is complicated. Today, we see swimmers appear who grew up with us on television, who started swimming at that time. It’s normal that it took a little time between the two.

Camille Lacourt celebrates her world title in the 50 meter backstroke on July 30, 2017, in Budapest.  (FERENC ISZA / AFP)

What can the French team aim for at the Worlds?

We can expect podiums. Obviously, our headliner, Florent Manaudou, still represents a chance of a medal. The young Léon Marchand (20) is also eagerly awaited: he is going up in the United States and he has performed brilliantly there. For me, he clearly has a chance of going for titles, whether in the 200 or 400 meter medley. What he achieved in yards, these are times of very very high world level.

Among the girls, Marie Wattel has been progressing every season for a few years. She was already a very good swimmer, but now she has become really athletic. On 100 meters freestyle and 100 meters butterfly, it will be necessary to follow it. Finally, we will have young people who will try to get a semi-final or a final. For them, the objective is not the medal, but to grow much faster.

With Paris 2024 in sight, is it better to bring as many swimmers as possible with easier-to-achieve criteria or to continue to select a competitive team?

When you go to the world or European championships, you have to aim high. You can only get experience if you’re competitive.

“If the swimmer stops in series, he won’t take experience, he just makes the trip. For those looking to achieve medals or titles, it’s a heavy burden to bear to have “tourists ” to the side.”

Camille Lacourt, five-time world swimming champion

at franceinfo: sport

The French team going to Budapest is good, with young people who have great potential. Some are still too young to seek titles and medals, but in in the not too distant future, this will clearly be the case.

This generation could be ready for Paris 2024. Everyone wants to shine at home. It’s such a chance to be able to swim in front of his public that they must have long teeth. It is for this reason that these world championships will not only be an experience test. They will really want to surpass themselves in order to continue to progress and not just be spectators.

Ten years after the Olympic title in London, the men’s 4×100 m relay was not selected in Budapest. Why ?

I think we have to mourn the past generation and allow time. In French swimming, unfortunately, we cannot be just in time. Our crawlers are really very young, apart from Maxime Grousset who, moreover, also represents a chance of a medal at the Worlds in the 50 and 100 meters. Behind, there is a small hollow.

Mehdy Metella is injured in the shoulder and had a white season. He and Grousset are the two standard bearers of the 4×100. I’m sure that, behind, it will quickly progress to join them. Florent Manaudou could also, why not, take up this event for a relay. It still lacks two or three swimmers for it to be very strong.

Conversely, with Mewen Tomac and Yohann Ndoye Brouard, as well as Analia Pigrée and Emma Terebo, the back school is still doing well. Is it a French specificity?

I don’t really have an explanation. There are talents and good coaches. When there are several of us in France to pull the plug several times a year, it helps to progress faster. In girls as in boys, we find this effervescence.

They could see that we had been able to do it when we have two arms and two legs like them. So they take their chance and train with good coaches, who also have the experience of our careers. For the world level, they still have a course to pass. They have to scratch a few tenths but it’s playable, because they swam at a very high level during their preparation.

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