At first glance, many people would never suspect that this brash, stubble-faced man is one of swimming’s greatest coaches. His muscle man-biker look has even been known to intimidate swimmers, other coaches and moreover…the media! His workouts are tough, real tough! The kind of workouts that some would say are “not possible” or even “crazy.” All of this, however, is mostly myth. A reputation handed down through swimming generations and gossip spread around the swimming world! Is there a secret to his success?
Philippe Lucas has always coached in France. Swimmers from many countries and from varied backgrounds have sought guidance from this unique swimming coach. Workouts are everyday, twice a day, including Saturday, with an occasional Sunday thrown in for a little recovery. Average distance per session about 9k (meters of course)! It does not matter if you are a sprinter or long distance swimmer. You work. And you work hard–period. One thing remains consistent with his athletes…SUCCESS!
Philippe first came onto the scene in the lead up to the 2004 games in Athens. His young protégé Laure Manaudou (age 17 at the time) won 3 Olympic medals including gold in the 400m freestyle (first ever for a French Women), silver in the 800m free, and a bronze in the 100m back. The partnership of Philippe and Laure created quite a frenzy of media coverage from 2004 until the Worlds in Melbourne in 2007. The duo changed clubs from Melun (near Paris) to Canet (bordering Spain) and the French paparazzi went wild with rumors of Laure and her romantic life and Philippe and his frequent harsh remarks. Despite the media mayhem, Laure again struck gold in 2007. She won the 200m, and 400m freestyle and took 2 slivers in the 800m free, 100m back and finished with bronze in the 4x200m relay.
When Laure retired, many people thought Philippe Lucas would just disappear, sort of fizzle off into swimming history. He did not! If you have followed the recent success of France as a swimming nation, Mr. Lucas is back! At the French Olympic Trials at the end of March, many eyes were focused on the super-talent Yannick Agnel (the French answer to our own Michael Phelps). He was not the only swimmer making waves in the pool. Lucas trained, Amaury Leveaux, managed to qualify for the London games in the 50 and 200 freestyle, plus the 4×100 and 4×200 relays (where France still has something to prove in the Olympic venue). Furthermore, another Lucas athlete Anthony Pannier made a BIG surprise in the 1500m by not only qualifying for London, but totally dominating the once unbeatable Sebastien Rouault. Also currently onboard with Lucas at the Lagardere Paris Racing club are Camelia Potec (Romanian seeking her 3rd Olympic Games) and Sara El Bekri (from Morocco and semi-finalist from 2011 Worlds in 200 breast)
Just to add to the impressive resume of Philippe Lucas, Camille LaCourt (current World Champion in the 100m back) and Benjamin Stasiulis (qualified for London as well in the 100m, 200m back) both spent significant periods of time training under Lucas; Lacourt in Canet and Stasiulis in Paris. Furthermore, we can’t forget that as recently as last year, Lucas guided Federica Pellegrini to 2 World titles in the 200m and 400m freestyle.
Philippe Lucas might not utilize any cutting edge technology or scientific studies to prepare his swimmers; he may, however, be showing us all the true secret with his slightly Darwin way of training…“Survival of the Fittest!”
Chris Morgan is a swimming coach in search of the next pool, the next set, and the most creative workouts. Follow him on Twitter @swim4chris