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Balmy Opens Gold Account In Saint-Raphael

Apr 13, 2010  - Craig Lord

Coralie Balmy, of Dauphins Toulouse, got the gold count underway at French nationals in Saint-Raphael with a 4:06.87 victory in the 400m freestyle. That booked her a place in the European title race come August in Budapest. Melanie Henique and Fred Bousquet claim 50m 'fly crowns. Sophie de Ronchi retained the crown in the 50m breaststroke on a day when all one lap dashes reflected a significant slowdown on the clock from a year ago as the shiny suit season gathered momentum. The last solo final of the evening saw Sebastien Rouault claim the 400m free crown in 3:48.57 as three men go under 3:50, including teenager Yannick Agnel.

Women 400m freestyle

Coralie Balmy set the pace from the blocks, turning in 59.33 and 2:02.06 at the 100m and 200m marks, with Camille Muffat and Ophélie-Cyrielle Etienne pressing, respectively on 2:03.45 and 2:03.51 at the half-way mark. On the third 100m, Balmy came under pressure from Muffat, who put in a 100m split almost a second faster than the leader's to close the gap to just 0.53sec, Etienne trailing a second back. But Balmy was having none of it: with a 1:01.66 final 100m split, she secured victory and left Muffat and Etienne to pick up the minor spoils, in 4:08.26 and 4:09.09. 

Their aim remains Laure Manaudou's French record of 4:02.13, still the fastest swim ever by a swimmer wearing one textile suit. None got past that in the shiny suits era. In 2009, the French crown went to Phillipe Lucas-trained Romanian Camelia Potec,in 4:03.50, with Balmy second on 4:04.96 and Muffat third in 4:06.13.

The early season world rankings are led by Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington (GBR) and Bronte Barratt (AUS), both on 4:05.50, with world champion Federica Pellegrini (ITA) just 0.07sec adrift when warming up from Italian nationals, which get underway tomorrow.

Times in transition (French nationals top 3, 2009, 2010, plus Rome 2009 top 2 for France)

  • 2009: 4:03.50; 4:04.96; 4:06.13
  • 2010: 4:06.87; 4:08.26; 4:09.09

Rome 2009: 4:03.29; 4:04.54

Women 50m Butterfly

There was upset in the first 50m dash final of the evening, as defending champion Diane Bui Duyet finished outside the medals, in 4th on 27.26. The crown went to 2009 silver medallist, Mélanie Henique, 18 and racing for Amiens Metropole. Her 26.36 victory was a touch slower than her best from last year.

Second place went to Angéla Tavernier, on 27.14, with Aurore Mongel third in 27.21, and American Kim Vanderburg the other side of Bui Duyet, on 27.38.

The early season world rankings have Therese Alshammar (SWE) at the helm, on 25.60, with 14-year-old Australian Yolane Kukla on 25.92, having kept world champ Marieke Guehrer at bay at Commonwealth Games trials Down Under last month.

Bui Duyet claimed the 2009 crown in 26.10 and cracked 26sec at Rome world titles, while 17-year-old Mélanie Henique was runner-up last year in 26.12.

Times in transition (French nationals top 3, 2009, 2010, plus Rome 2009 top 2 for France)

  • 2009: 26.10; 26.12; 27.24
  • 2010: 26.36; 27.14; 27.21 

Rome 2009: 25.92; 26.71 p

Men 50m Butterfly

Fred Bousquet, of CN Marseilles, claimed the 50m 'fly title in 23.58 ahead of training partner Fabien Gilot, on 23.92, with third place going to Belgian 20-year-old Francois Heersbrandt, racing for Toulouse, on 23.97. The B final saw Alberto Subirat, of Venezuela clock 24.32.

On 23.46, Geoff Huegill, 2001 world champion, heads the early 2010 world rankings, with Subirats second on 23.66 from last month.

Bousquet stepped up from a year ago, when, in the midst of shiny suits season he clocked 22.84 on the way to a final won by Spain's Rafa Munoz in a world record of 22.43. Bousquet recently became a father for the first time, his daughter Manon able to boast another world-class swimmer as a parent: Laure Manaudou.

Times in transition (French nationals top 3, 2009, 2010, plus Rome 2009 top 2 for France)

  • 2009: 22.48; 23.44; 24.03
  • 2010: 23.58; 23.92; 23.97

Rome 2009: 23.75 p

Women 50m Breaststroke

The time was a pool apart but Sophie de Ronchi, of Massy Natation, retained the crown in 32.41, 0.08sec ahead of Fanny Babou, with bronze going to Andréa Baudry, on 32.65. In fifth was one of the breakthrough swimmers of 2009, Sara El Bekri, on 32.90, after a 31.54 third-place finish a year ago. The 2009 crown went to De Ronchi in 30.96, while Babou clocked 31.51 back in Montpellier.

Times in transition (French nationals top 3, 2009, 2010, plus Rome 2009 top 2 for France)

  • 2009: 30.96; 31.51; 31.54
  • 2010: 32.41; 32.49; 32.65 

Rome 2009: 31.12 s

Men 400m freestyle

Sébastien Rouault, of Mulhouse, rose to third on the early world rankings over 400m freestyle, his 3:48.57 victory in a terrific tussle for the podium leaving the minor spoils to Ahmed Mathlouthi, Paris-based Tunisian, on 3:48.68, with Yannick Agnel, 18 this year, cracking 3:50 for the first time for third place in 3:49.83.

For Rouault the race was one that placed the disappointments of 2009 nationals firmly behind him: last year, he finished 8th in heats in 3:55 and withdrew from the final.

The splits tell the tale of a tight and thrilling race:

  • 1:  55.07 (55.07)  1:53.65 (58.58)  2:51.63 (57.98)  3:48.57 (56.94) 
  • 2:  55.78 (55.78)  1:54.34 (58.56)  2:52.30 (57.96)  3:48.68 (56.38)  
  • 3:  55.57 (55.57)  1:54.11 (58.54)  2:52.21 (58.10)  3:49.83 (57.62) 

At the 2009 poly nationals, France's record book was torched at what L'Equipe called the "festival de polyuréthane de Montpellier". Agnel cut a striking figure in briefs. Over 400m he missed the cut for the final and finished 4th in the B final in 3:57.05. The triple European junior champion (200m, 400m, 4x200m free) wore a non-textile body for the first and last time in Prague at that continental youth meet. We will be hearing more from Agnel, both later this week and later this year.

In 2009, a 3:46.28 gave Roustoucher the 400m free crown and national record  ahead of Mathlouthi's 3:47.05, but the defending champion was 11th this morning in 3:57.90 and out of the final.

Times in transition (French nationals top 3, 2009, 2010, plus Rome 2009 top 2 for France)

  • 2009: 3:46.28; 3:47.05; 3:49.55
  • 2010: 3:48.57; 3:48.68; 3:49.83

Rome 2009: DNS


Camille Lacourt followed up a morning blast of 53.35 with a 53.83 in the men's 100m back semis to claim lane 4 for the final. Alongside him will be defending champion and French record holder (53.16) Jérémy Stravius, on 54.25.

In the women's 200m backstroke, Alexianne Castel, defending champion, set the pace in the semis with a 2:10.46. Her wait for lane 4 in the final was soon over: either side of her tomorrow will be Alexandra Putra, on 2:11.59, and Cloé Credeville, on 2:11.63.

The first semi of the 100m breaststroke for men went to Giacomo Dortona Perez, on 1:01.73, with Paris-based Brit Kris Gilchrist on 1:02.32. Dortona's target in the final will be the man in the middle, Hugues Dubosq, on 1:00.61 in morning heats and 1:00.94 in the semis.

Results in full