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Muffat Mashes 800 Free WR: 8:01.06

Nov 16, 2012  - Craig Lord

Camille Muffat, Olympic 400m freestyle champion, destroyed the world 800m freestyle record at French nationals in Angers tonight, challenging the 8min mark as she tore a length off her nearest rival, former world champion Lotte Friis (DEN) on the way to a negative-split triumph.

The record had stood at 8:04.53 to Italy's Alessia Filippi since shiny suits were in the pool in 2008. Now it stands at 8:01.06 -  4:00.85, then 4:00.21. Coach Fabrice Pellerin, of Nice, will doubtless soon be asked to deliver a speech entitled "How I coached Agnel and Muffat into uncharted waters".

In a year in which both Yannick Agnel and Camille Muffat have, in their separate ways, already torn up the form guide in swimming, Muffat drove a cart and horses through the history of 32-lap racing. The fastest anyone in textile had gone until today was 8:04.77, Friis's best in 2011. The day of the sub-8-minute 800 for women is nigh. Bobby Hackett was the first to do that among men, back in 1978.

At this speed, Muffat will surely crack the 200 and 400m world marks before the year, perhaps the championships, is out, with Euro and World s/c meets still to tell us if anyone else can get near.

Friis took second in Angers on 8:16.91, with Coralie Balmy (FRA) on 8:20.54 and doubtless left to wonder at the pace of her French teammate 19 seconds ahead.

At the half-way mark, Muffat was on 4:00.85, a time clocked by only 17 women ever in a solo 400m race discounting a few shiny suit times. 

The splits: 57.34; 1:58.39 (1:01.05); 2:59.60 (1:01.21); 4:00.85 (1:01.25); 5:01.37 (1:00.52); 6:01.78 (1:00.41); 7:01.53 (59.53); 8:01.06 (59.53)

Muffat seems able to maintain world-class peak form over many occasions, weeks and months. At the Berlin round of the world cup last month she fell just 0.01sec shy of the shiny suit world short-course record with a 3:54.93 over 400m. Joanne Jackson (GBR) holds on to the world record from 2009. Not for much longer perhaps.

Muffat's best had been 3:57.48, from 2008. And her 800 short-course best, from december 2008 (all emphasis on long-course since then): 8:20.54.

It has been an astonishing year for Muffat, Ol;ympic silver medallist behind Allison Schmitt (USA) at London 2012 to add to her own victory in the 400m.

On the way to that, Muffat put in one of the most stunning sets of 400m long-course races ever seen, including:

  • 4:01.13 Muffat (world textile best)
  • 4:02.97 Muffat
  • 4:03.21 Muffat
  • 4:03.72 Muffat
  • 4:04.01 Muffat

Now the same tactic is being employed to fill s/c rivals with fear ahead of the internationals ahead.

In other action in Angers, backstroke ace Jeremy Stravius, of Amiens, set a French record of 4:06.85 to dominate the 400m medley; Agnel, a day after a 3:32.25 world mark in the 400m and the same day as a morning wake-up call of 7:29.17, a European record, in the 800m, crushed his opponents in the 100m freestyle in 46.68. 

Agnel's morning 800m granted a third gold of the meet at the end of the session in Angers this evening, Anthony Pannier first home in the fast heat (declared winner) on 7:40.09.

Meanwhile, one of Agnel's key rivals, Olympic 400 and 1500m champion Sun Yang (CHN), took the 400m free in 3:42.49 at the Asian Championships (long-course) in Dubai. Teammate Zhang Fenglin clocked 1:55.59 to win the 200m backstroke while the best effort among women came from Zhao Jing, on 59.97 in the 100m backstroke.

Over at the Phill Hansel Invitational in Houston, Texas, Olympic trials bolter Breeja Larson set a 100 yards breaststroke American short-course record of 57.53, inside her own 57.71, set last March for victory at NCAAs. She finished 6th in the London 2012 final over 100m.