And the plot thickens…
First there was the abrupt resignation of Lionel Horter, the Technical Director of French Swimming, on Friday. Then came yesterday’s announcement that Yannick Agnel would be returning to France to train under Horter at Mulhouse Olympic Natation. The news from the Hexagon on Tuesday is that Amaury Leveaux is considering coming out of retirement to join Horter and Agnel in Mulhouse.
In a radio interview on RMC Sport, the four-time Olympic medalist admitted he was considering a return to the pool. Leveaux told RMC, “I saw Lionel Horter last Wednesday in Paris, in a restaurant. We talked. What did we talk about? What if I took up (swimming) again, if there was a little thing, for a 50m in Rio, the war to end all wars…. I said, ‘why not?’ ‘I’d like that.’ He’s going to give me an answer. After that I’ll have the cards in my hand. I’ll have to decide.’”
Amaury Leveaux retired in December 2013 after a storied career with the French team. He was the leadoff leg in both the 4×100 free relay that edged the US for gold in London in 2012, and the one that took silver to the US in Beijing in 2008. In addition he won silver with France’s 4×200 free relay in London, and was the silver medalist in the 50m free at Beijing. Leveaux was highly decorated in sprint free in short course meters, and still holds the world record in the 100 with 44.94.
Also on Tuesday, RMC had Yannick Agnel on the radio. Agnel explained his decision to return to France in more detail. Notably he reminded listeners that “it’s just a sport. You get the impression it’s a huge deal. After all, I’m here because I love it, because I have fun, because I enjoy swimming.” When asked if it was a rash decision like the one he took to move to Baltimore 15 months ago, Agnel replied, “No, I really thought it over. I spoke to both Bob (Bowman) and Lionel (Horter) several times over the last few days, and with Bob over the last several weeks.”
And while he said he really enjoyed his time in the United States, the “method” of training wasn’t working for him, and that showed up in the results. It’s just not what he was used to, and rather than stick it out in Baltimore to see if he would adapt better to this different method, he decided to make a change with 18 months left before Rio.
He did, however, credit Bowman and the team at North Baltimore for giving him “another vision of the sport.” He added, “thank goodness Bob Bowman was there a year and a half ago. Otherwise I’d be watching sports on television. Swimming, that is. So I have to thank him for that. And he really gave me another way of looking at the sport…. It’s something I’ll have forever. It’s an adventure I’ll never forget.”
And so the adventure begins. Lionel Horter, no longer in charge of the technical department of French Swimming, is back to coaching. Yannick Agnel is joining him in Mulhouse. Amaury Leveaux is mulling over a comeback. Just as the French media was beginning to whine about the Bleus’ mixed results at European Championships, a new fire has been lit and there is excitement in the air.