4 Storylines To Follow At The 2021 French Elite Championships

2021 French Elite Swimming Championships

The 2021 French Elite Swimming Championships are set to begin on Tuesday, June 15, and will serve as a final qualifying opportunity for the Olympic Games. At the first qualifying meet Florent Manaudou, Marie Wattel, Beryl Gastaldello, and Melanie Henique became the first qualifiers for the Games. As other competitors take to the pool, be sure to follow along with these storylines:

1. Will Beryl Gastaldello Set Up Her Long Course Breakout?

Beryl Gastaldello has conquered the sprint freestyles, butterflies, and backstrokes on the short course yards and short course meters scene over the past couple of years. Over her NCAA career, she was a consistent point-scorer at SEC Championships and NCAAs for the Texas A&M Aggies and then went on to be one of the biggest stars of the International Swimming League’s first 2 seasons. During the 2020 ISL season, Gastaldello collected 20 individual victories for the LA Current including wins in the 50 free, 100 free, 50 back, 50 fly, 100 fly, 100 IM. Her numerous victories and consistent speed contributed to her 3rd place finish overall in the league behind only Caeleb Dressel and Lilly King.

Heading into the summer, the big question on everyone’s mind will be whether or not Gastaldello will be able to transfer that short course prowess into long course success. While she’s been representing France internationally for several years, Gastaldello has yet to reach a major international long course podium individually.

At the 2016 Olympic Games Gastaldello wound up in 25th place in the 100 butterfly with a 58.93. The next year she finished 15th overall in the 50 fly and 21st in the 100 fly at 2019 World Championships. At the most recent World Championships in 2019 she raced the 100 free, fly, and back, with her highest finish coming in the 100 free where she finished 15th.

Thus far Gastaldello has qualified for the 100 freestyle in Tokyo with her December 2020 swim of 53.40. At French Championships she will have a shot at adding up to 3 more events in the form of the 50 free, 100 back, and 100 fly. Having skipped the 2021 European Championships, it will be exciting to see what shape Gastaldello is in this week and whether or not she’s ready to make a long course statement in Tokyo.

2. Redemption Part 1: Leon Marchand

2019 World Junior Championships bronze medalist Leon Marchand was heading into the 400 IM at the 2021 European Swimming Championships as 11th seed. He was entered with his 4:14.97 French record from earlier this season and certainly has the potential to improve a break into the top 8.

That was until he announced that he had sprained his finger during a warmup session and would be leaving Budapest early. That left us wondering whether he would be able to swim even faster and potentially even become the first-ever French man to crack 4:14 in the event.

While Marchand’s 4:14.97 is a solid swim, he will need to go faster at French Championships this week if he wants to add his name to the Olympic roster. Even though it’s under the 4:15.84 FINA A standard, his NR still trails France’s own Olympic qualification mark of 4:13.33.

3. Will France Find A Breaststroker?

Breaststroke is arguably France’s greatest weakness right now. That has been the case for the last few Olympic cycles in fact and the last time the country won an Olympic medal in the stroke was in 2008 when Hugues Duboscq took bronze in both the 100 and 200. As for the women, there hasn’t been a top 3 finish for France at an Olympic Games since Los Angeles in 1984 when Catherine Poirot won bronze in the 100 breast.

While an Olympic medal is a particularly high bar to set to gauge success, we can also look at the fact that France actually didn’t send anyone to the 2016 Olympics, 2017 World Championships, 2019 World Championships for a breaststroke event. Additionally, no one has lowered a French record in the stroke since Sophie de Ronchi‘s 1:07.97 in 2011.

With a clear gap in their rosters of late, we are wondering whether the nation will manage to end the no-breaststroke streak at the Tokyo Games this summer. While nobody is a lock to qualify, here are the current qualifying standards compared to the top seed in each of the breaststroke events at Nationals:

Men Women
Top Seed Time OLY Qualifying Time Top Seed Time OLY Qualifying Time
100 Breaststroke 59.86

(Theo Bussiere)

59.45 1:08.60

(Fanny Deberghe)

1:06.73
200 Breastroke 2:11.44

(Antoine Viquerat)

2:08.20 2:25.60

(Fanny Deberghe)

2:22.87

While at this point it seems almost impossible that France will be medal contenders in any of the individual breaststrokes, it would be a step in the right direction for them to get someone on the roster in the stroke. Further, considering the current sprint talent in the form of Florent Manaudou, Beryl Gastaldello, Mewen Tomac, Melanie Henique, Yohann Ndoye Brouard, Marie Wattel, among others, having a breaststroker in Tokyo would bode well for their efforts in the men’s and women’s 4×100 medley relays for which they are qualified.

4. Redemption Part 2: Charlotte Bonnet

Should she qualify for Tokyo, 2012 and 2016 Olympic Charlotte Bonnet will be a veteran member of France’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic roster. Bonnet raced for France in both London and Rio and managed to qualify for the 200 freestyle at the most recent Games while placing 15th overall in the 100 freestyle.

Realistically, Bonnet has a shot at qualifying for the team in any 3 of the sprint freestyles as there is currently one spot available in the 50, 1 in the 100, and 2 in the 200. At the first of 2 French qualifying meets in December 2020, Connet came within inches of qualifying in all 3 of those events while Melanie Henique and Beryl Gastaldello nabbed the first 2 spots in the 50 and 100, respectively.

OLY Qualifying Times vs. Charlotte Bonnet‘s December 2020 Swims

Olympic Cut Bonnet’s Swim at the 2020 French Championships
50 Freestyle 24.53 24.80
100 Freestyle 53.53 53.82
200 Freestyle 1:56.63 1:56.65

As she preps to go up against a tough field of French sprinters in each of the events, Bonnet should be able to find confidence in her PBs in the events which are all under or nearly under the qualifying times. In the 50 she holds a 24.66, in the 100 she actually has the French record which sits at a 52.74, and in the 200 she holds a 1:54.95, all from 2018. Bonnet also got under the 200 Olympic qualifying cut recently at the 2021 European Championships where she hit a 1:56.55 for 4th place.

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Penguin
3 months ago

Planning to just scroll down and read Bobo’s commentary.

Irish Ringer
Reply to  Penguin
3 months ago

Good that you didn’t waste your time on that 🙂

Reggaetony
3 months ago

France made it from out#3 on W medley relay?

CasualSwimmer
3 months ago

I’m still hoping for the rebirth of french breastroke ! After Hugues Dubosq and Giacomo Perez-Dortona, the medley needs someone to support the rest of the amazing field (great back, fly, and free swimmers)