Aidan Pongrace is an American high school student who just-so-happens to be studying and training abroad for his senior year in Rennes, France, the host of this year’s French National Championships. He is a member of the legendary NCAP team in the Washington D.C. area, and has previously written for the Washington Post’s ‘Reach for the Wall’ swimming website.
Day One of French Nationals had one big surprise: Alain Bernard. Don’t get your hopes up. The swimmer, infamous not only for his sprinting talents but also his taunting of the American 4×100 Free relay in Beijing, isn’t there to compete. Like me, he’s there reporting. For the most part, the top seeds seemed to know that they were about to come away with a victory. The top seeds made their way nonchalantly onto the blocks as if saying, “No worries, I’ve got this one in the bag already.” Nevertheless, France is setting itself up for a strong showing in Barcelona this summer.
400 Free Women Final:
Making it look easy, Camille Muffat came away from the final of the Women’s 400 Free as a national champion and in doing so posted the world’s top time in the event this year according to FINA world rankings. Her 4:04.16 blew away the field by nearly four seconds. By the 100-meter mark she was already a second ahead of eventual second place finisher Coralie Balmy: one to watch for as the distances increase. Denmark’s Lotte Friis, a nother swimmer who will get better as the races get longer, took third place in 4:10.90.
100 Back Men’s Semi-Final
Once again choosing the “let’s make it look easy” route, the 2011 Shanghai co-world champions in the event, Camille Lacourt and Jeremy Stravius cruised into the wall on their way to winning their respective heats. Both had over a body length lead over the rest of the field by the time they finished. Stravius more so than Lacourt really cruised into the wall and still managed to post the evening’s top time of 54.37 just a smidge faster than Lacourt’s 54.48.
American-trained and dual citizen Eric Ress took the 3rd seed in 55.24. That’s a very good swim for him, though his better chance at stealing a spot from Worlds from those top two is in the 200 later in the meet.
200 Back Women’s Semi-Final
Nothing too exciting here. Evelyn Verrastzo, a Hungarian, posted the night’s top time of 2:11.19, just off the FINA A standard, but it is unclear whether this is a qualifying meet for her or not. If it is I wouldn’t be surprised to see her better the 2:11.09 FINA A standard time in finals. Meanwhile, the fastest Frenchwoman was Cloe Credeville who won the first heat in 2:15.04
100 Breast Men’s Semi-Final
The British are coming! The British are coming! The men’s semi final had two Brits in it this evening with one of them, Joseph Welstead, the top seed in heat one. He and Jamie Graham dipped were two of only five swimmers to dip under 1:03 and both made it into the final tomorrow night.
The top qualifier was Frenchman Giacomo Perez Dortona of CN Marseilles who won the event in 1:01.84. Perez Dortona placed 17th in London in the event, but last year was his big breakout season, so this year he’ll look to build to Barcelona and improve that finish.
50 Fly Women’s Final
Olympic Nice Natation carried Camille Muffat’s win into the women’s 50 fly where they occupied half of the final heat. Melanie Henique of Amiens Metropole Natation ended up taking the title in 26.47 and qualifying for Worlds. Olympic Nice Natation’s Marie Wattel took second to qualify as well in 26.56. That breaks France’s National Age Record for 16-year olds in the event, in addition to stamping her ticket for Worlds.
50 Fly Men’s Final
Florent Manaudou and Frederick Bousquet faced off in the sprint butterfly event: the two best Frenchmen and two of the best in the world. Bousqet pulled of the win in an impressive 23.00. To put that into perspective, that time is the fastest time in the world in 2013 by 0.27 seconds and just over half of a second off the world record set back in the suit era. Manoudou posted the world’s second fastest time in the world this year with a 23.14.
For Bousquet, that’s a bit of redemption after missing the Olympic team and vowing that his career was not over. Those two will both challenge for medals in this race at Worlds. Belgium’s Yoris Grandjean was 3rd in 23.58.
In the final two events of the night, France earned no qualifiers in either the women’s 50 breast nor the men’s 400 free. A Tunisian, Ahmed Mathlouthi, achieved the FINA A standard with a time of 3:49.06 but, like Evelyn Verratzso, it is unclear whether this is a qualifying meet for him.
Full, live meet results available here.