Leveaux: The Anomaly Of The French Trials
Apr 27, 2008
Craig Lord

The French Olympic trials came to a close after eight days in Dunkirk with Malia Metella taking the 50m free in 24.87 ahead of Celine Couderc 25.29 and, at the other end of the spectrum, Sebastien Rouault clocking 15:03.71 in the 1,500m ahead of Nicolas Rostoucher, on 15:12.29. All four will race in beijing.

The trials were not quite as dramatic overall as those in Australia and Britain in terms of progress made across the board but there were some stunning highlights, such as Amaury Leveaux's 21.38 50 free European record, just 0.1sec outside Australian Eamon Sullivan's world record.

Like Sullivan's time, Leveaux's is a statistical aberration, and not only when you consider what he was capable of before. Take a look at his 50m free time compared to those ranked alongside him in the 200m at 1:46 or better in the all-time top 10 best over four laps. Leveaux is the only one in - or anywhere near - the all-time top 10 in the 50m now, with Pieter van den Hoogenband at 23 the cloest to the Frenchman's No2 ranking in the 50m:

1:43.86 Phelps 22.94
1:44.06 Thorpe 23.00
1:44.89 vdHoogenband 22.03 (Olympic bronze medal 2000)
1:45.45 Vanderkaay (no 50 ranking, 49.20 best 100m)
1:45.61 Hackett (no 50 ranking, 50.31 best 100m)
1:46.13 Keller 24.00
1:46.37 Biedermann 23.41
1:46.54 Leveaux 21.38 (2007 best - 22.80; 2006 best, 22.93)
1:46.59 Burnett 22.12
1:46.60 Rosolino (no 50 ranking, 49.31 best 100m)

The 200m men have never had such a speedster in their midst. Popov, Hall, Jager - none went there. Biondi is among the rare few who have stretched to gold-challenging times at 50 and 200m - 1:47.72, 48.42 and 21.85 was an amazing stretch. Leveaux has knocked that into a cocked hat.

There has been a shift of seismic proportions in the sport this year, some of which can be put down to performance-enhancing suits, which will cancel each other out over the coming months. Only by Beijing will this odd tale come to a more comprehensible conclusion.