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Lacourt Leaves Gaping Gap On 24.07

Aug 12, 2010  - Craig Lord

European Championships, Budapest, day 4 finals:

Men 50m backstroke

This is a dash in which every podium ever produced has been split by less than 0.5sec. Not today: Camille Lacourt (FRA) challenged the best ever seen in a shiny suit, and fell just shy, with a jaw-dropping 24.07sec victory over unrested world champion and record holder Liam Tancock (GBR), on 24.70, with bronze going to Guv Barnea (ISR) in 25.04. That 52.11sec win over 100m from Lacourt was sensational. His 50m blast was a roaring, spinning propulsion of piston-like precision, no break in stroke discernible on his way to falling 0.03sec shy of the world mark of 2009. The gap to the rest of the world gaping. Lacourt's was the biggest winning margin by more than 0.5sec. The biggest range of 1st to 8th in Euro titles history was just over 1sec, in 2002, and that stood out. Now: 1.45.

"I have to admit that I aimed for the world record, but 24.07 is a decent time," said Lacourt in something of a gross understatement. "I will discuss the areas where I can improve with my coach [Romain Barnier in Marseilles], but there is, for sure, a lot to be done to improve my start." If so, then seven other men must surely be saying the same. 

Tancock said: "Camille did a very good job but I've still got my world record ... though they are there to be broken." The 50m standards have widely been predicted to be among the last shiny marks to lose their shine, even though backstroke, in which so many men stuck to pants only, was also considered to be among the softest of the very tough targets.   

Lacourt is among those bucking the trend on the clock. He is faster now that the shine has worn off. His 2009 best was 24.46, while fifth was where  he finished at Roma09, on 24.61.

The world champion looked forward to another day when rest would allow him to target gold again: "If someone told me a couple of months back that I'd pick up a couple of medals without being fully ready, I'd have jumped at it. I can't wait for the Commonwealths now. It's nice to keep hold of my record but it's there to be broken and Lacourt is pushing the boundaries. When I'm fully ready to go it gives you someone to aim at."

History unfolding:

Effect on race on all-time top 10:

  • 24.04 Tancock
  • 24.07 Lacourt - textile
  • 24.24 Koga
  • 24.33 Bal
  • 24.34 Zandberg
  • 24.48 Wildeboer
  • 24.49 Guilherme
  • 24.59 Meeuw
  • 24.70 Hesen
  • 24.72 Grevers

Euro podiums:

  • 2010: 24.07 - 25.04
  • 2008: 25.13 - 25.44
  • 2006: 25.06 - 25.15

Euro finals:

  • 2010: 24.07 - 25.52
  • 2008: 25.13 - 25.88
  • 2006: 25.06 - 25.88
  • Most Euro wins: Stev Theloke (GER), 3
  • Most Titles/Nation: GER 5
  • Tightest Podium: 2004 - gold to bronze - 0.08sec 

From the archive: Until the 2008 victory of Aristeidis Grigoriadis in Eindhoven 2008, all five 50m backstroke crowns contested since 1999 had gone to Germany, and three of those (1999, 2000 and 2004) to Stev Theloke. In 2000 and 2004, the Saxon sprinter kept the same opponent - Darius Griglionis (LTU) - at bay by respective margins of 0.01sec and 0.6sec. At the 2005 world championships, German head coach Ralf Beckmann demanded team disciplines that Theloke did not agree with. The swimmer was sent home without competing and told a German paper: "I will never race for this country again." Switzerland, Austria or an Arab state were cited as alternatives. Theloke never did race for any of those countries. In 20087 he returned to seek Olympic selection for Germany but fell shy. His career included two Olympic bronze medals (Sydney 2000) and nine gold medals at European Championships, long and short.


Shiny suit era

  • WR/ER: 24.08 Liam Tancock (GBR) Jul 23009 

February 1  2008

  • WR/ER: 24.80 Thomas Rupprath (GER) Jul 2003