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Laure Manaudou: The Last Adieu?

Jan 28, 2013  - Craig Lord

Laure Manaudou, the first woman swimmer to win Olympic gold in the pool when she claimed the 400m freestyle title in 2004, will announce her second and final retirement from the race pool on French television this Wednesday, according to Agence France Presse.

"Manaudou, this time its over" writes one publication today, though neither Manaudou nor any of her entourage has yet confirmed the story. The television farewell is said to be scheduled for 8.30pm on Wednesday.

If true, Manaudou raced for France for a last time at a home European s/c championships in Chartres last year, with gold in the backstroke dash marking a successful adieu. Beyond the 2004 Games in Athens, where she won gold over 400m, silver over 800m and bronze in the 100m backstroke, Manaudou reached the peak of her speed with world records over 400m in 2006 and 200m in 2007, the years she claimed the 200m and 400m freestyle world titles in Melbourne.

Manaudou goes down in history as the women who finally ended the reign of the legendary Janet Evans (USA) on the clock over 400 metres free: the 4:03.85 in which the American claimed the 1988 Olympic crown in world-record time was finally surpassed when Manaudou clocked 4:03.03 at French nationals in Tours on May 12, 2006.

Manaudou left France for a life with boyfriend Luca Marin in Italy ahead of the Beijing 2008 Games but things did not work out. In China, Manaudou finished 8th in the 400m free final. She quit the sport in 2009, celebrated the birth of her daughter Manon with partner and French sprinter Fred Bousquet and in 2010 started out on the comeback trail. Manaudou raced at her third Olympic Games in London last year and ran on to the poolside to congratulate her younger brother Florent after he had won the 50m freestyle title.

That success made the Manaudous the first swim siblings to win Olympic solo gold in the pool.