Come what may in London 2012 at the end of the month, Camille Muffat (FRA) is already a champion of consistency this season, a model of practice makes perfect when it comes to racing 200m-800m at a swift pace, testing out gear changes as a habit along the way.
The Fabrice-Pellerin-coached charge from Nice gave the home crowd on the concluding day at the Paris Open reason to send her off to the Games with hope in their hearts: she won the 400m free in her 6th sub-4:05 of the season, a 4:04.42.
And here's how she swam it: 59.91; 2:02.55 (1:02.64); 3:04.79 (1:02.24); 4:04.42 (59.63). That left France Olympic teammate Coralie Balmy left to wonder on 4:08.75, with France-based Romanian Camelia Potec, 2004 Olympic 200m champion, third in 4:11.20.
When it comes to what Muffat is practising, history provides hints:
Muffat's season bests in 2011 were 1:55.95 in the 200m, 4:03.23 in the 400m and 8:25.76 over 800m. Taking the 400m as an example this season, her efforts invite us to trawl back through the approaches of Olympic champions Rebecca Adlington, Laure Manaudou and Janet Evans and world champion Federica Pellegrini: none have ever had five swims in one season (including the major event of the year) between 4:01 and 4:04 flat.
Here's the measure of Muffat this Olympic year on the way to London:
Hard to find an Olympic approach quite like it.
In the 200m free for men, Muffat's training partner Yannick Agnel dispatched all-comers with a 1:46.09 tub-thumper less than a stroke away from what Mssrs Phelps and Lochte were capable of at US Trials in Omaha last week. Lochte will face Agnel in London but Phelps gave up his place in the 200m free to Ricky Berens. In Paris today, closest to Agnel were Jeremy Stravius, on 1:48.68, and Agnel's training parter Clement Lefert, 0.01sec further adrift.
Jason Dunford, of ADN and Kenya, was a class ahead of the rest in the 100m butterfly, on 52.55, Pawel Kornzeniowski (POL) next home, in 53.31, third place going to Italy's Piero Codia in 53.33. Laszlo Cseh (HUN) also had a good last outing before London 2012, a 1:58.30 win in the 200m medley almost 4sec up on next best.
Fabio Scozzoli (ITA) and Cameron Van Der Burgh (RSA) warmed up for a swifter clash at London 2012 on 1:00.88 and 1:00.96 respectively in the 100m breaststroke just ahead of France's Giacomo Perez Dortona, on 1:01.06.
Anastasia Zueva (RUS) produced the sole sub-minute effort in the 100m backstroke, her 59.40 dominating the race, Alexianne Castel (FRA) next home in 1:00.55, while Lara Grangeon (FRA) settled a 400IM argument with Patricia Castro (ESP) 4:46.11 to 4:46.35. Grangeon was back in later to take second in the 200m butterfly, her 2:12.22 no match for a 2:08.77 from Judit Ignacio (ESP).
In the dash finals, Therese Alshammar (SWE) got the better of Inge Dekker (NED) 25.66 to 25.88 on butterfly and Caroline Ruhnau pipped German teammate Sarah Poewe 31.52 to 31.68 on breaststroke. Poewe returned later to win the 200m in 2:28.75 ahead of 2009 world champion-from-the-blue Nadja Higl (SRB), on 2:28.84.
In the men's 50m free, Matthew Targett (AUS) fended off a French advance, denying Florent Manaudou (FRA) a home win 22.14 to 22.15, with Fred Bousquet on 22.22, Alain Bernard on 22.28 and Amaury Leveaux on 22.38. The men's meet concluded with a 2:00.10 to 2:00.70 win for Benjamin Stasiulis (FRA) over Jan Philip Glania (GER).
The meet came to a close with a 54.88 win for Femke Heemskerk (NED) in the 100m free, national teammate Inge Dekker on 55.23, Russian Veronika Popova on 55.50 and Australian Yolane Kukla on 55.52. That Heemskerk/Dekker/Kukla dimension of the 4x100m free at London 2012 will help to determine whether gold will be orange or gold and green in London.