He is the one who must carry French swimming at arm’s length until the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year: Florent Manaudou plays Sunday November 22 in the final of the second season of the International Swimming League (ISL), which takes place in Budapest. He will try to get his qualification for the Olympics.
To franceinfo, Florent Manaudou confides going in circles. It has been six weeks since he arrived in Hungary to compete in the ISL, confined like all swimmers. We find him in his room in a hotel on Margaret Island, Budapest, where last week he alone celebrated his 30th birthday. The ISL, of which he won the first edition with his team Energy Standard, was, along with the Olympics, one of the objectives of his season. By force of circumstances, it became his sole ambition of the year.
franceinfo: you’ve been in Budapest for a month and a half. Is this situation starting to weigh down?
Florent Manaudou: six weeks in the same place seeing a hotel and a swimming pool, it’s not very fun. We don’t do much, the weather isn’t necessarily nice, we can’t go out. After a while it starts to get a little hard. I am someone who needs to relax with family and friends to want. Some feast. For others, it is very hard. We all do our best to try to win in the end. I came back to do this ISL and to play the Games, so it’s good that we can compete despite the context. Especially since the average level is rather high.
You celebrated your 30th birthday alone in Budapest on November 12th …
It’s awesome (laughs). But I had a very nice gift. I had a ten minute video edit of my family and friends. On the one hand, it’s heartwarming, to receive a little love in these difficult times is cool. But celebrating it on the bed in my hotel room, it’s not ideal and it gave me a little blow in the back of the head, telling me: I want to come home and see my friends. In the end, the weight of the years is not too hard to bear.
With the postponement of the Tokyo Games, ISL is the only competition maintained of the year. Otherwise, would it have been a blank season for you?
We didn’t compete for eight months. The last was at the end of January. Some of my colleagues in Marseille still haven’t competed again. We are lucky to find automatisms. Eight months without swimming is a long time. Training is not necessarily funny every day. And when you’re in training, you don’t necessarily have nice surprises, whereas in competition, you can surprise yourself. Without this ISL, it would have been more complicated for me.
Even if it is in an extraordinary context, with these empty stands?
This supporters side is a little lacking but we don’t really have a choice. At least we can do our job. I, who watch handball a bit, see that a lot of matches are postponed. Sport is also a spectacle, and performing in an empty swimming pool is a bit complicated.
What level do you feel you are at right now?
I have never been at such a good level this time of year but I have never competed at such a high level at this time of year. So it’s difficult to compare. Since I came back to competition, I had my best times, it’s pretty satisfying. I’m still missing a few tips to be at the best level I had in 2014 and 2015. I hope to get there and surpass it very quickly.
Is the duel with the American Caeleb Dressel launched?
I haven’t swam this fast for six years but it’s true that if he continues to progress like that, it can be complicated. But he can make a mistake in a race. So far, he’s the one who has the best performance of the year over 50m and 100m. He continues on his good momentum started in 2017. He is an extraordinary athlete, I will try to beat him.
And the rest for you, what will it look like? Is it difficult to see yourself in the current context?
I will try to return to Marseille and train a little for two weeks. There will be the French championships in the large basin. After I don’t know, I have no idea what’s going to happen from January. You have to make decisions at the last moment. I will start to think about the Games just before the French championships in December. It’s hard to project yourself when you’re in a bubble like here. For now, I just can’t wait to get home.