Brazil’s Maria Lenk Trophy is one of the biggest, and best, team swimming events in the world. Unlike American National Championship meets, Maria Lenk has a huge focus on team scoring in addition to individual results, and this creates an awesome atmosphere similar to high school state championships in the US, only on a much grander scale.
Every year, each team is allowed to bring in two foreign swimmers to be members of their team (who from hereon out will be known as “mercenaries”). There is huge interest in who these swimmers will be, as they can hugely swing the team competition.
Last year, American couple Rebecca Soni and Ricky Berens swam this meet, though for different teams. This year, French sweethearts Laure Manaudou and Fred Bousquet will follow in their footsteps, though they will act as teammates swimming for the Brazilian powerhouse Pinheiros.
This will give them a stout relay quartet on the men’s side, as Bousquet will team up with sprint stars Bruno Fratus and Marcelo Chierighini.
As this serves as the final leg of Brazilian Olympic qualifying, the two French swimmers will be coming off of their Olympic Trials in March. This commitment means that both swimmers are likely confident that they will make the Olympic Team – which is a probability, but by no means a definite at this point. They will probably be back into serious training around the time of this meet, so as to be able to taper again for the Olympics, so don’t expect any spectacular times, but one would imagine they will still swim well.
Manaudou will get a chance to race against the best Brazilian swimming has to offer on the women’s side, Fabiola Molina, who will just be coming off of her doping suspension.
Thanks to Brazilian correspondent D’Artagnan Dias for contributing to this report.