The Associated Foreign Press is reporting that French superstar Laure Manaudou returned to the pool earlier this week to begin training towards the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai and the 2012 Olympics in London.
Manaudou retired in September of 2009 after 5 roller-coaster years of a career. In 2004, she burst on to the international scene by winning Olympic gold in the 400 free at only 17 years old. In the years that followed, Manaudou had a falling out with her coach, and a very public breakup with Italian boyfriend Luca Marin, who leaked nude pictures of her that spread far and wide across the internet.
At the 2008 Olympics, Manaudou led the 400 free at the halfway mark before falling back to last at the final touch. By 2009, she admitted to have given up the will to train and compete at an elite level and retired. The timing of her retirement coincided with her discovering that she and fellow superstar Frederick Bousquet were going to have their first child.
Manaudou has had a change of heart after Manon was born in April, and according to the French swimming federation, she decided about a month ago to make the move. She will shortly be coming stateside to train with Bousquet, Coach Brett Hawke, and the stable of World and Olympic Championship medalists at Auburn.
Manaudou’s return comes shortly after a similar announcement by Libby Trickett of Australia that she would be returning to training for at least the rest of this Olympic cycle. Trickett is 25 and Manaudou turns 24 in two weeks.
Swimming superstars around the world, including Americans Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin, seem to have developed a new methodology for training that includes taking an extended rest immediately following the post-Olympic World Championships. The results thus far are inconclusive, but these extended breaks almost seem necessary with swimmers extending their international careers well beyond swimmers of yesteryear–Mark Spitz retired for good at 22; Tracy Caulkins at 21.