The International Swimming Hall of Fame has announced that French sprinter Alain Bernard will be among those inducted into its 17-member class of 2017. France’s most decorated Olympic swimmer, Bernard has two gold medals, one silver, and one bronze; he earned one of each color in Beijing in 2008 and a gold medal in London in 2012.
Bernard blasted onto the international scene in 2008 at the European Championships in Eindhoven. There he won gold in the 50m free and 100m free, setting world records in both events, and in the 4×100 free relay. In Beijing, Bernard had both highs and lows. While he won the 100m free individually, and went back and forth with Eamon Sullivan trading world records in the event, Bernard was the anchor on the French 4×100 free relay and was out-touched by Jason Lezak over the last several meters. Still, Bernard took home gold in the 100, silver in the 4×100, and bronze in the 50m free. In London four years later, he pocked a gold medal as a prelims member of France’s 4×100 free relay that got its revenge over the Americans in the final.
Bernard is the first inductee into the class of 2017, so far, whose career was at its prime in the 2000s. He will be joined by:
- Walter Poenisch (USA) – long distance swimmer
- Wu Chuanyu (CHN) – pioneer
- Zhang Xiunei (CHN) – pioneer
- Heinz Kluetmeier – photographer
- Takashi “Halo” Hirose – pool swimmer
- Osvaldo Horacio Codaro – water polo
- Dick Jochums – pool swimming coach
- Maarten van der Weijden – open water swimming
- Georges Vallerey (FRA) – pool swimmer
Press Release, Courtesy ISHOF:
FORT LAUDERDALE – The International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) announced today that Frenchman ALAIN BERNARD, will become one of seventeen (17) honorees to enter the International Swimming Hall of Fame as the Class of 2017. Bernard is the tenth individual to be named for ceremonies to be held August 25-27, in Fort Lauderdale. Previously, Open water swimmer Marteen Van Der Weijden, swimmers Wu Chuanyu (CHN) and Takeshi “Halo” Hirose (USA) Georges Vallerey, Jr. (FRA), diver Zhang Xiuwei (CHN), long distance swimmer Walter Poenisch (USA), water polo player Osvaldo Codaro (ARG), coach Dick Jochums (USA) and photojournalist Heinz Kluetmeier have been announced.
Born on May Day, 1983 in Aubagne, Bouches-du-Rhône, France, Alain Bernard dreamed of being a football (aka soccer) player, but at his mother’s insistence he learned to swim at the age of six and this experience would mold his future. He swam for a small club in Augagne until the age of sixteen. With hopes of swimming in the 2004 Olympic Games, he switched to Club Marseille, to train under coach Denis Augin. But he contracted mononucleosis and failed to make the French team. Returning to the pool he continued a slow but steady progression in the 50 and 100m freestyle. Early in 2007, he followed his coach to a new club, Antibes, and it would be a break-out year for Alain. in February, he broke the French record in the 100 meters and later claimed his first European Championship title in the same event. Then in March of 2008, at the European Championships, he set his first world records, besting the time of Peter van den Hoogenband by 24 one hundredths in the 100m, and Eamon Sullivan’s 50m record by .06. A month later he qualified for the Beijing Olympic Games in Both events.
Alain’s experience in Beijing began with bitter disappointment, when the USA took the gold medal from the favored French team in the 4 x 100m freestyle relay. On top of that, he also lost his world record to Eamon Sullivan who had led off Australia’s relay with a phenomenal swim. But two days later, Alain reclaimed his record in his 100m semi-final, before losing it again to Sullivan in his semi. In the final, however, it was Alain Bernard who won the 100m gold medal, and with his victory he became France’s first male Olympic gold medalist since Jean Boiteaux won the 400m freestyle, at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games. The next day he won a bronze medal in the 50m event and left Beijing with three medals, each of a different metal, equaling the performance of Laure Manaudou four years earlier in Athens.
In April of 2009, Alain Bernard ushered in the shiny suit era by becoming the first swimmer to break the :47 second barrier in the 100m freestyle, and breaking Sullivan’s record with a time of 46.94. Unfortunately, the suit he wore was one not later approved by FINA and his record was unrecognized.
Leading up to the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Alain continued to be among the world’s top sprinters and although he missed qualifying in individual events, he was a member of the French 4 x 100 meter free relay that finally won the gold after knocking on the door of greatness for most of his career. Upon returning to France, at the age of 29, he announced his retirement as his country’s most decorated Olympic swimmer, owning a total of four medals (two gold, one silver and one bronze) at two Olympic Games (2008 and 2012). In January 2013, Bernard was made an Officer of the French National Order of Merit and he later traveled to Africa as an Ambassador for UNICEF. Then in 2015, he was selected to participate in the French adventure game show, “Dropped.” He was on the ground in Argentina when he learned that there had been a helicopter accident that killed his fellow contestants, including 2012 Olympic 400m champion Camille Muffat, who was inducted into the ISHOF posthumously in 2016.
Saying that “Camille is always in my heart,” he visited her family and attended the inauguration of the swimming pool bearing her name. The tragedy has given him a greater appreciation for life and today he is very involved sharing his love of swimming in his role as ambassador and technical advisor for the French AquaSphere brand of swim equipment.
The International Hall of Fame, established in 1965, is a not-for-profit educational organization located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Its mission is to promote the benefits and importance of swimming as a key to fitness, good health, quality of life, and the water safety of all adults and children. It accomplishes this through operation of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, a dynamic shrine dedicated to preserving the history of swimming, the memory and recognition of the famous swimmers, divers, water polo players, synchronized swimmers and people involved in life saving activities and education whose lives and accomplishments inspire, educate, and provide role models for people around the world. For more information contact Bruce Wigo at 954-462-6536 ext. 201, or by email [email protected]