Lisa Pou won the 5km and 10km races at last weekend’s Martinique Open, which acted as a French qualifier for the 2023 World Championships, but the 23-year-old open water swimmer apparently won’t be representing France this summer in Fukuoka.
Instead, Pou says she will represent nearby Monaco moving forward. She told SwimSwam that she has been training with the AS Monaco club for more than a decade and has “received a lot of support from the people that believed in me here.” Her dad, Michel, is a two-time Olympian for France who helps coach her at AS Monaco.
“Now I am glad to be able to represent them and give my best for them in the future,” Pou said of Monaco.
It’s still unclear how World Aquatics’ new rule mandating a three-year waiting period between sporting nationality switches will apply in Pou’s case. She told SwimSwam she initiated the process to change sporting citizenships before World Aquatics’ latest policy update.
Nestled in the French Riviera, Monaco is the second-smallest sovereign state in the world behind Vatican City. If Pou is able to find her way onto the podium at a major international meet in the future, it would be historic for hew new home country. The nation of less than 40,000 residents has never won a medal at Worlds, in the pool or open water swimming. No athlete from Monaco has ever won an Olympic medal, either.
Pou scratched out of last year’s World Championships and 4th in the 25km at the 2019 World Championships. At the 2018 European Championships, she earned a bronze medal in the mixed team event at just 19 years old.
The potential absence of the 2018 European Championships bronze medalist from France’s roster means that newly certified French citizen Anastasia Kirpichnikova could represent France in both the 5km and 10km at Worlds, although her eligibility remains in question.
Kirpichnikova, 22, is a Russian native who was naturalized as a French citizen on Friday and appeared to have missed qualifying for the 10km by just .22 seconds on Saturday with a third-place finish behind Pou and 22-year-old Oceane Cassignol. Kirpichnikova then placed second in the 5km to seemingly clinch her spot at Worlds, but the sport’s international governing body said not so fast.
Last month, World Aquatics (formerly FINA) approved a new policy requiring a three-year waiting period between changes of sporting nationality. Kirpichnikova has been living in France for over three years and began her process of seeking new sporting citizenship before the recent rule took effect, but a World Aquatics spokesperson told SwimSwam on Sunday that the latest rules still apply in her case.
If World Aquatics denies Kirpichnikova an exemption, she wouldn’t be eligible to return to international competition until December of 2024 — three years after she last represented Russia internationally at the 2021 Short Course World Championships, where she took silver in the 800 free — leaving her out of both Worlds and the 2024 Paris Olympics. She was the first Russian woman to compete in both pool and open water events at the last Olympics in Tokyo. This year, she would be the fastest French woman in three events (400 free, 800 free, and 1500 free).
Pou’s withdrawal from the French squad also bumped 32-year-old Aurelie Muller into qualifying position in the 5km after she initially placed third behind Pou and Kirpichnikova. The two-time Olympian and former world champion took silver in the 5km at last year’s Worlds while also just missing the podium in the 10km with a fourth-place finish.
Monaco is a super rich country yet has very few people.
I wonder what the swimming opportunities exist in Monaco.
It would be tough to get 4 swimmers that are Olympic level to form a relay, something France is better at, but I’m sure there’s pros to Monaco.
She swims OW so probably her looking for relays isn’t important
The Mare Nostrum meet is held at a respectable 50m indoor pool that would suit any good club team, and the outdoor 50m pool literally in the centre of the city and right on the harbour front is one of favourite in Europe – and would also be great for training or competition. These pools are about 10 minutes apart on foot.
And then of course there’s the Med for open water–you could technically swim to three different countries on a very easy session!
An international transfer portal, just like the NCAA’s!
Can you imagine the goodie bag you would get from Monaco?!?
I dont’ understand. If Kirpichnikova is not eligible to represent France at Worlds and Olympics, Pou too. Lisa Pou swam for France at Worlds 2022 in Budapest. She raced 25 km in open water. If the new rule applies, she cannot represent Monaco before June 2025…
Would think it has to do with when the paperwork has been submitted to World Aquatics? It was mentioned that Kirpichnikova notified the Russian federation before the rule change but did she submit the paperwork to WA? I doubt WA particularly cares what commuication she had with the French and Russian federations before the rule change.
I find it quite interesting that right when it looks like there might be an exodus of Russian athletes WA brings in a rule change to make it more difficult to change nationalities. Does anyone know how long this rule change has been in the works?