FIRST FRENCH WOMAN TO WIN OLYMPIC GOLD IN SWIMMING, BROKE THE “UNBEATABLE” RECORD OF JANET EVANS
FORT LAUDERDALE – The International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) announced that Laure Manaudou of France will join 17 others as honorees who will enter the International Swimming Hall of Fame as the Class of 2017. Manaudou is the sixteenth member of the class to be named for ceremonies to be held August 25-27, in Fort Lauderdale. Previously, Open water swimmer Maarten Van Der Weijden, swimmers Wu Chuanyu (CHN) and Takeshi “Halo” Hirose (USA) Georges Vallerey, Jr. (FRA), Alain Bernard (FRA) and Australia’s Leisel Jones (AUS), diver Zhang Xiuwei (CHN) and Laura Wilkinson (USA), long distance swimmer Walter Poenisch (USA), water polo players Osvaldo Codaro (ARG), András Bodnár (HUN) and Bridgette Gusterson, synchronized swimmer Anastasia Davydova (RUS), coach Dick Jochums (USA) and photojournalist Heinz Kluetmeier have been announced.
Laure Manaudou was born on October 9, 1986 in Villeurbanne, France. She swam for the club of Ambérieu-en-Bugey, in Ain, from the age of 6 to 14 years old. In 2000, coach Philippe Lucas spotted her and convinced her parents that he would make her a champion. She then left the family nest to join her new coach in Melun, and a year later she won two silver medals at the European Junior Championships in Malta. Everyone started talking about her enormous potential.
In 2003, at the age of 16, Manaudou won her first French national title in the 50m backstroke, at the French championships. The following year she took gold in the five individual events (400m, 800m, 1500m, 50m back and 100m back) at the French Nationals and qualified for her first Olympic team. In Athens, a few months later, she won the gold medal in the 400m freestyle. It was France’s first gold medal ever in women’s swimming and the first swimming gold medal won by a French athlete since Jean Boiteux’s victory in the 400m men’s freestyle event at Helsinki in 1952. Manaudou also won the silver medal in the women’s 800m freestyle and the bronze medal in the women’s 100m backstroke, thus becoming only the second Frenchwoman to win three medals in a single Olympic Games, Summer or Winter.
In 2005, she defended her world title in the 400m freestyle at the 2005 FINA World Championships. At the French Championships in 2006, she did what many thought was impossible. For eighteen years, women swimmers had been chasing the seemingly untouchable record set by America’s Janet Evans in the 400m freestyle at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. There was reason to believe it would last for eternity, but Laure Manaudou finally broke it and she lowered Evans’ standard again at the European Championship three months later.
She confirmed her status as a favorite to repeat as Olympic champion in Beijing, by winning 5 medals including 2 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze at the 2007 World Swimming Championships in Melbourne, Australia. Shortly thereafter, she signed a sponsorship contract for 5 years for a sum of money that would be close to 1 million euros a year. The same year, on May 6, 2007, she decided to part with coach Philippe Lucas to train in Italy.
Manaudou was the star of French swimming and a real hope of multiple medals at Beijing 2008, but by her own admission 2007 was a crazy year as personal issues interfered with her training. After a season where she had four coaches and a loss of motivation, Laure finished a disappointing 8th in the 400m final and 7th in the 100m backstroke.
She announced her retirement in early 2009, but living in the United States two years later, started training again and although she qualified for the London Olympic Games in the 100m and 200m backstroke, she failed to advance beyond the preliminaries. She announced her retirement and left the international aquatic stage as she started it, after winning the 50m backstroke at the European (SC) Championships in November of 2013.
In 2014, Laure released her autobiography, Entre Les Lignes (Between The Lines). It is a candid, honest account of her life in competitive swimming, with its sacrifices, its ups and downs, her relationships with her brothers, coaches and lovers and the challenges she faced dealing with fame at an early age.
Triple Olympic medalist, three-time world champion, 18-time European champion and 58 times champion of France, Laure Manaudou enters the ISHOF as the best female swimmer of France history.
The International Hall of Fame, established in 1965, is a not-for-profit educational organization located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Its mission is to promote the benefits and importance of swimming as a key to fitness, good health, quality of life, and the water safety of all adults and children. It accomplishes this through operation of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, a dynamic shrine dedicated to preserving the history of swimming, the memory and recognition of the famous swimmers, divers, water polo players, synchronized swimmers and people involved in life saving activities and education whose lives and accomplishments inspire, educate, and provide role models for people around the world. For more information contact Bruce Wigo at 954-462-6536 ext. 201, or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credits: Entre Les Lignes – Manaudou with coach Phillipe Lucas & On the podium in 2004