Watershed Moment For Manaudou
Oct 28, 2012 - Craig Lord
Its never over until its over but Laure Manaudou, the 2004 Olympic and 2007 double world champion who quit after Beijing 2008 and came back in time for London 2012, is on the verve of calling it a day for the last time.
French media reports today that the word from the city of Compiègne, where Manaudou is racing this weekend, is preparing for a swansong international at the European Short-Course Championships in front of a home crowd in Chartre from November 22-25.
Manaudou has not confirmed the widespread rumour. Neither has she denied it. When asked by L'Equipe to comment on headlines claimed "Manaudou to quit for good", the foirfmer 200m and 400m freestyle world record holder said with a smile: "You interpret it as you wish." Perhaps there are some commercial deals in place that commit to on outlet or one sponsor breaking the news as and when the swimming mum is ready; perhaps it is just that she is genuinely unsure which way to go.
If she goes, it will be big news in France, even though Manaudou has not been a medal contender at the highest level since 2007.
L'Equipe called her father, Jean-Luc - but he knew nothing, while her brother Florent, Olympic 50m freestyle champion, remained tight lipped.
The most amusing take on it all came from Manaudou's partner Frédérick Bousquet, father of the couple's daughter Manon. The sprinter said: "I realise that after almost ten years of her being [around the media], she is still not aware of the impact that her words may have!" Queue big smile. "With Laure, you can never guess in advance, you can never be sure, and then decisions are never necessarily final. If she continues, we will base life on that, if not, then I can look forward to her making me some great meals!"
Marseilles coach Romain Barnier said, hopefully: "If she has a great European Championships, it might sew doubt in her mind. It would be great to enjoy a great performance in Chartres. If she had retirement in mind, that may leave her hungry for more. In the meantime … she will probably quit."
If she does, the Philippe Lucas charge will leave the race pool not only as one of the greatest middle distance freestylers the sport ever saw (she also claimed 800m silver in 2004 and bronze in the 100m backstroke) but as the catalyst to a French revolution.
It had been 52 years since France had won an Olympic gold when Manaudou became her country's first woman Olympic champion and only the second swimmer ever to top the ultimate podium. By the time London 2012 waved goodbye, France had five more gold medals on its list of honours.