French Championships

1:56.17 For Esposito In The 200 Fly


Nick J. Thierry

The 100th anniversary of the French Championships was celebrated during seven days in May in Dunquerque, May 10-16. One national record was established during the week-long competition, by Franck Esposito. Even before the championships got underway with the seven-day format with semi-finals in all events except those 400 and longer, it was decided to reduce the length of future competitions to five days.

Another departure from the international rules was a peculiar French variation on how to advance from the semis to finals. Under international rules it's the first two from each semi plus the four fastest times, while in Dunquerque it would be the first three from each semi and the two remaining fastest times.

On the first night, leading off the winning club relay of the Racing Club de France in the 4x100 freestyle, Salim Iles, who has dual French and Algerian citizenship, established a new African record of 49.96, bettering his previous time of 50.31. (There have been faster times by Africans, notably Jonty Skinner's 49.44 in 1976, which was recognized as the FINA world record. However, it is not recognized by the continental authorities as he was living in the USA and South Africa was banned from international competitions.) Iles represent Algeria.

On the third night, Esposito won the 200 butterfly with 1:56.17, a national record bettering his previous time of 1:56.32 from the World Championships in Perth in January 1998.

A comparison of the splits:
Dunquerque 25.83 55.32 1:25.62 1:59.17
Perth 26.02 55.35 1:25.71 1:59.32
World record 25.61 55.57 1:25.51 1:55.22
Esposito moves to fourth on the all-time list.

1 1:55.22 CANETJUN Denis Pankratov,RUS LCM95
2 1:55.69 WORLD91 Melvin Stewart,USA LCM91
3 1:56.16 GOODWJUL Denis Sylantyev,UKR LCM98
4 1:56.17 FRALCMAY Franck Esposito,FRA LCM99
5 1:56.24 FRGNATS Michael Gross,GER LCM86
6 1:56.75 USNATAUG Tom Malchow,USA LCM98
7 1:56.75 ASIADEC Takashi Yamamoto,JPN LCM98
8 1:56.81 USNATAUG Ugur Taner,USA LCM98
9 1:56.86 AUSLCMAR Scott Goodman,AUS LCM97
10 1:57.04 OLYMPICS Jon Sieben,AUS LCM84

He added the 100 butterfly on the sixth day with 53.08, just off his own French record of 52.94.

Disaster struck two of the most prominent French swimmers.

Jean-Christophe Sarnin, a silver medallist from the 1998 World Championships in the 200 breaststroke, faded to sixth with a mediocre time of 2:22.85 (2:17.17 in the semis) and will not be in Istanbul for the European Championships at the end of July. Stephan Perrot, winner of the 100 breaststroke with 1:02.93, added a win in the 200 with 2:13.62, a personal best by two seconds and the fastest time so far this year.

Breaststroke sweep for Stephan Perrot
Click image for larger photo. Photo © Marco Chiesa

World champion Roxanna Maracineanu (200 back) was second in the 100 backstroke, a major upset. She complained of being tired from the six swims, three rounds in the 200 IM and three in the 100 back, with her specialty the 200 backstroke yet to come. She did not even qualify for the European championships with her second place finish. Suffering with bronchitis during the week and requiring antibiotics, her 100 backstroke time of 1:03.95 was a long way off from her French record of 1:01.84. In the prelims (2:21.30) and semis (2:14.48) of the 200 backstroke, Roxanna qualified for the Europeans and could approach the final relaxed winning in 2:15.02.

In a curious decision, the French Federation allowed several swimmers not elligible for selection to the European Championships into finals. In the men's 50 freestyle, Salim Iles false started as he was anticipating the starter. After the recall, the starter warned another swimmer who did not cause the false start. With the second and final attempt to start the race, Iles again left early and an official, in a momentary lapse, activated the false start rope. Under FINA rules there should have been no recall but a disqualification at the end of the race.

On the third attempt, everything went off normally and Iles won the race in 23.00. Frederic Dutilleux was second in 23.20, well off the 22.90 required for team selection, and Julien Sicot was third with 23.35. Both were slower than their semi final times.

After a successful protest, the Jury of Appeal ruled that another chance would be available to qualify for the European Championships in Millau at the end of June, during the final of the Coupe de France. At the end of the week, 15 swimmers earned selection with only one men's relay, the 4 x 100 medley relay.