2015 French Long Course National Championships
- Dates: Tuesday, March 31 – Sunday, April 5, 2015
- Times: prelims 9:00 am, semis/ finals 4:45 pm
- Location: Limoges, France (GMT +1, or 6 hours ahead of N.Y., 9 ahead of L.A.)
- Results: Available
- Championship Central
The French Long Course National Championships, held each year around the last weekend of March/first weekend of April serves double duty as the national championship meet and the selection meet for that year’s international competition. In 2012 it doubled as France’s Olympic Trials; in 2013 it was the basis of selection for their World Championship team. The 2014 version was used to determine the composition of the squad representing at the European Swimming Championships in Berlin, and in 2015 it will be the selection meet for the FINA World Championships in Kazan.
This year 651 competitors will vie for titles in 34 individual events (17 for women, 17 for men) in the brand new aquatic complex, called l’Aquapolis, in Limoges, France.
- Races to watch: 100 fly, 100 free, 50 back, and 100 back
Although she retired before the French Open last summer, the immensely-talented Camille Muffat will be greatly missed at this year’s French Nationals. The Federation, and the elite swimmers of France, have unofficially dedicated this meet, and their performances therein, to Muffat, who perished in a helicopter accident earlier this month.
Since her reconversion in 2010 from a 200 IMer to a mid-distance freestyler, Muffat dominated the freestyle events in France, and represented the Hexagone well in international competition. No one currently has quite the range that she did, but several freestylers do stand out. At the longer end of the range, Coralie Balmy of Mulhouse is the one to beat. At 4:05.73 in the 400, she is seeded with a 6-second margin over Sharon Van Rouwendaal of The Netherlands, who swims for Sarcelles. The two also sit at the top of the 800 start list with 8:29s, although there the margin is only a half-second. Van Rouwendaal leads the field in the 1500 at 16:35.41, with Sarcelles teammate Coralie Codevelle seeded just 3 seconds behind her.
In the shorter distances, Muffat’s training partner, Charlotte Bonnet of Nice, is favored in the 100 and 200 frees. Bonnet had an excellent Marseille stage of The Golden Tour, picking up Kazan qualifying times and establishing herself as the fastest French woman in the 200 (1:56.63) and 100 (54.31). Bonnet’s Nice teammate and French record-holder, Anna Santamans, is top seed in the 50 free (24.81).
Other names to look out for are Cloé Hache and Marie Wattel (Nice), Mélanie Henique (still swimming under the Amiens flag but now training in Marseille), and Marseille’s Béryl Gastaldello, fresh off a successful inaugural season at Texas A&M in which she finished All-American.
The seed times in the backstroke events are less competitive than those in the freestyles; only Mathilde Cini (Valence Triathlon) comes in with a Kazan “A” cut (28.55). But the bench is deep in both the 50 and 100, and the top 6-8 seeds are bunched together. Cini, Gastaldello (Marseille), and Camille Gheorghiu (Antibes), should dominate at the sprint end of the backstroke range. Justine Ress (Antibes) is also a factor. In the 100, top-seeded Van Rouwendaal (1:01.95) will add her name to the list of title candidates. Van Rouwendaal is also the one to beat in the 200 (2:12.43). Fantine Lesaffre (Mulhouse) and Evelyn Verraszto of Hungary (but trains with Nice), and Ress are also competitive in the 200.
Breaststroke is probably France’s weakest event overall, and it is especially true for the women. Although Bonnet is top seed in both the 50 and 100, she has yet to achieve “A” cuts for Kazan, and behind her is a rather thin field. Adeline Williams (Toulouse) and Coralie Dobral (Montauban) are seeded second and third, respectively, behind Bonnet in both the 50 and 100. In the 200, Dobral comes in with the top time, then Williams, then a similarly-seeded group that includes Fanny Deberghes (Montpellier), Lara Grangeon (Calédoniens), and Lesaffre.
It is the butterfly, and especially the 100, that we think will be the most interesting –and hopefully exciting– set of events on the women’s side of the meet. In addition to defending champion and current national record-holder Henique (25.94), the field includes Gastaldello and Armony Dumur (Fourmies), both just back from successful NCAA meets. Dumur, a senior at Wingate University, crushed the NCAA Division II record in the 100 fly. Gastaldello, meanwhile, did a lot better in the 50 and 100 free than in the 100 fly at Division I NCAAs, but in February she set the SEC record in the 100 fly at conference championships. Both women had outstanding US college swimming seasons and it just remains to be seen if they can extend their taper to this meet.
Santamans and Wattel are both factors in the 50 fly, and Wattel is top seed in the 100 with 58.59. Grangeon has the fastest seed time in the 200 fly (2:10.19), just ahead of Van Rouwendaal. Justine Bruno (Beauvaisis) is seeded in the top 6 of all three distances.
Bonnet is top seed in the 200 IM with a vastly-improved 2:13.33. Her Nice teammate Verraszto and Grangeon of Calédoniens are seeded second and third. Grangeon comes in with the top time in the 400 IM (4:38.67). Lesaffre and Verraszto are seeded about 5 and 8 seconds back, respectively.
The IMs are another area where France doesn’t have a lot of depth. 16.5 seconds separate Grangeon from the eighth seed in the 400 IM.
- Races to watch: 50/100 back, 50/100 free
Florent Manaudou leads a group of talented –and experienced on the international stage– French freestylers. The 2012 Olympic champion in the 50 free is entered in both the 50 (where he is seeded first by a half-second with 21.32) and the 100 free (seeded first with 47.98), but his Marseille coach, Romain Barnier, has told the press that Manaudou won’t be going for the 100 title. He might swim in prelims but it is unlikely he will compete in finals. They have decided to concentrate on the three 50s he entered: free, back, and fly.
The top eight seeds in the 100 free reads like the Who’s Who of French swimming: after Manaudou, it’s Fabien Gilot (Marseille), Jérémy Stravius (Amiens), Yannick Agnel (Mulhouse), Medhy Metella (Marseille), Clément Mignon (Marseille), Grégory Mallet (Marseille), and Frédérick Bousquet (Marseille).
It is more or less the same group at the top of the 50: Manaudou, Bousquet, Stravius, Gilot, rising star Nosy Pelagie (Bron), Mignon, as well as Mallet, Agnel, and Thomas Dahlia, the Louisville senior who just wrapped up men’s NCAAs. In the 200 the order shifts around, and now Agnel (1:44.20) leads the pack by a couple of seconds. Mallet is seeded second, just ahead of Mignon.
A whole new cast of characters comes forward to dispute the 400 free and the longer races. Anthony Pannier of Sarcelles (3:51.77) is seeded first, but only by .04 over Damien Joly of Antibes. Benoit Debast from Sarcelles and Joris Bouchaut, another young up-and-comer, are also entered with 3:51-highs.
Pannier (7:56.11), Joly, Bouchaut, and Axel Remyond of Fontainebleau-Avon all have a shot at the 800, while Bouchaut (15:08.65), Joly, Pannier, and Reymond lead the qualifiers in the 1500.
The 100 back tends to be one of the best races in every French meet, especially when Camille Lacourt of Marseille and Stravius are in the middle lanes. This meet will be one of those years. Stravius has the fastest seed time with 53.09, but Lacourt is seeded with 53.23. Also competing in the 100 are Benjamin Stasiulis (Marseille), and Eric Ress (Antibes).
Stasiulis and Ress lead the field in the 200 with a pair of 1:58s. Also in the mix are Stravius, Oleg Garasymovtch (Avignon), and Florian Joly (Toulouse).
The best of them all will be the 50 back. Lacourt (24.37) is top seed, followed by Stravius (24.45), Manaudou (24.95), Stasiulis (25.86), and Eddie Moueddene of Amiens (25.87). In the pre-meet press conference, Manaudou expressed his enthusiasm for this race. He thanked his training partners in Marseille for having helped him improve in the 50 back, and reveled in his “outsider” underdog status, saying it’s just where he likes to be.
Giacomo Perez Dortona (Marseille) is France’s leading breaststroker in the 50 and the 100. He won the 100 at this meet last year and was runner-up to Manaudou in the 50. With his Marseille teammate not entered this year, Perez Dortona is top seed in both events (27.39/1:00.38).
Malik Fall (from Senegal but trains with Courbevoie) and the Italian Andrea Bolognesi (trains with Monaco) are seeded second and third in the 50, followed by Dahlia. In the 100, Dahlia is joined by Antibes teammate Quentin Coton as second and third seeds. Rising star Jean Dencausse, who has been breaking French age group records and moved to Marseille at the beginning of the season to train with the Romain Barnier group, is seeded fourth.
The 200 shows the depth of the Antibes breaststroke group, as Dahlia (2:11.43), Coton (2:11.60), and William Debourges (2:13.28) are all at the top. Dencausse is seeded fourth with 2:13.73.
The Marseille trio of Manaudou (23.00), Bousquet (23.20), and Gilot (23.84) are the fastest entrants in the 50, while their teammate Mehdy Metella (51.96) leads the list of qualifiers in the 100. Stravius, Lacourt, and Jordan Coelho (Vanves) follow in slots 2-4, respectively. Coelho is top seed in the 200 fly by over 2 seconds with 1:56.71.
If there is an Achilles Heel on the men’s side of French swimming, it is in the IMs. The top seed in both events, Ganesh Pedurand of Toulouse (2:01.64/4:25.15), is several seconds off the “A” standards for Kazan. Cyrille Chautron (Bron) and Yannick Chatelain (Nîmes) are up there with Pedurand in the 100 and 200, respectively. Fifteen-year-old NAG record-breaker Tanquy Desparre of Cannes is seeded 11th in both races.