French Olympic medalist Laure Manaudou celebrated her 28th birthday today with the release of her autobiography, “Entre les lignes,” which is a nice play on words mixing the ideas of “reading between the lines” and “swimming between the (lane) lines.”
From the interviews she has done with French television and print media, it would seem that in her book, Manaudou has been able to talk with real candor about her swimming career, the choices she made, and what she learned. To begin with, she states quite clearly that she never liked to swim. It was almost an accident that she wound up in the sport. What drove her was the love of winning –and later on, an “addiction to the podium” –and that motivated her to put in the hours training.
She talks about her years with Philippe Lucas, the flamboyant coach whose intractable training methods were exactly what the 14-year-old Manaudou needed at that stage of her career. When she first joined him in Melun she had never done a morning practice and the look and smell of the pool at 5:15 am wasn’t very appealing. She admits she wouldn’t have done it on her own; Lucas pushed her, he yelled, he cajoled, but to her credit she responded. “Deep down, I knew that’s what I needed,” she admits.
The formula worked, because at 17 Manaudou won Olympic gold in the 400m free at the 2004 Games in Athens. It was the first gold medal for a French swimmer since Jean Boiteux had won in 1952 at Helsinki. The more she won the more she wanted to win, and the superbly talented Manaudou stayed among the world’s best for several years.
It’s not surprising to learn Manaudou is driven by passion. It takes passion to get to, and stay at, the top of one’s sport. But as Manaudou recounts her life, passion also got in the way of sound decision-making. She admits she shouldn’t have left Lucas in 2007 and followed Italian swimmer Luca Marin to Italy. It proved to be the beginning of the end of her career in the pool.
Manaudou spent a year in the US with then-companion Frederick Bousquet when he trained at Auburn. After the birth of their daughter, Manon, Manoudou trained there too, and eventually made the 2012 French Olympic team in the 100m and 200m back, as well as the medley relay.
Manaudou retired definitively from swimming in January 2013. She says she hasn’t put her toes in the water since, and doesn’t miss it at all. When asked what she does miss, she answers, “the ready room.” She says she loved the calm of the ready room, and the fact that no one besides the competitors was there. She describes placing herself deliberately across from the “favorite,” crossing her arms, and staring her down.
Since her retirement, Manaudou has launched a line of swimwear, appeared in numerous television programs, and now written an autobiography. But her most fulfilling job is being a full-time mother to Manon.
SwimSwam wishes a happy birthday to Laure Manaudou. Bon anniversaire et bonne lecture.