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Nice Prize For Pellerin & His Giants of Gaul

Dec 20, 2012  - Craig Lord

Fabrice Pellerin, mentor to Olympic champions Yannick Agnel and Camille Muffat, the freestyle duo who played a part in all but one of the national team's tally of 4 gold, 2 silver and one bronze medal, has been voted Sports Manager of the Year across all sports by L'Equipe newspaper.

The award is fitting recognition for a man who laid down the blueprint for a success that allowed Les Blues to call itself "Europe's top swimming nation" despite obvious weakness in a vast number of Olympic events.

The magnitude of contribution from Pellerin, Agnel and Muffat cannot be overstated:

  • Agnel:   200m freestyle gold; 4x100m freestyle gold; 4x200m silver
  • Muffat:  400m freestyle gold; 200m freestyle silver; 4x200m bronze

That left just one French medal in which they crew from Nice did not play a part: the gold in the 50m freestyle won by Florent Manaudou, coached by former British world champion James Gibson in Marseilles before his move back to Britain and a john in charge of sprinters at his alma mater, Loughborough University.

Pellerin has his charges listen to specific types of music while they work in the water. Aesthetics and the esoteric are said to be at play but in fact there are deeper factors at play in the realms of the water whisperer Milt Nelms and the Nelmsing system that has helped the likes of coach Terri McKeever and her California charge Dara Torres, among a shoal of others, to unlock human reserves often left untapped.

Benefitting from his studies in Edu-Kinesiology (cerebral organisation profiles), Pellerin asks the question: “You’ve got the skill, but will you deliver the performance? It is precisely by deciphering the subconscious mechanisms of sporting performance that it is possible to measure the extent to which a potential and its actual realisation are located at different levels.”  

Pellerin kitted out his squad with waterproof mp3 players loaded with the sounds of Hans Zimmer's Dark Knight (Batman), Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Love the Way You Lie with Eminem and Rihanna, the Beatles and Mozart.

"There is no theme that better echoes sport than music," said Pellerin. "If I did not see any link between the two, I would not do it. The quick or slow movements of a symphony can correspond to a race construction with management, accelerations. I want to introduce them [the swimmers] to the musical states of mind that will allow them to maintain a rhythm or to change it if the race demands."  

On Agnel working to the pace of the Dark Knight, Pellerin said: "The piece climbs progressively in volume and a rhythm sets in, repetitive. The two arms ahead working in tune to the uniform beating [kicking] of his legs. Three chords of cello violoncello [the cello] appear then disappear by the time he has taken three arm strokes."

On Muffat, the coach added: "Camille now swims better than before when I simply said 'do one 25m faster'. She is more streamlined because she is following the music and knew that one note follows another. Beyond that, she is more relaxed."

Agnel, his mp3 loaded with his own wide-ranging choices -  Beatles, Black Desire, Mozart, Polnareff, Superimposers, Nine Inch Nales and Breakbo - sounded not unlike Mumble (Happy Feet) when he said: "I'm not very good at finding the rhythm of my swimming - but I think this will help me." It appears to have done just that. Pellerin says he has seen children with a musical education take to swimming more quickly than others. Music now features in three out of 12 sessions for his group.

You can read more on Pellerin's programme and catch up on the Nice success story at a new website dedicated to the biggest success story in the history of French swimming. The site is aptly named 'nice-swim'. There's even a store, with Nice t-shirts and a DVD entitled "Les Secrets d'Une Nage Evolutive" - a must for Christmas stockings. Well worth checking out.

Pellerin, Agnel and Muffat will also feature in the SwimNews Review of 2012, complete with our own awards with a twist, by the end of the year.