Manaudou Out To Prove Herself
Craig Lord
The Olympic champion is happy not to enter the 400m free in Beijing with the fastest time - but she wants her crown back, and more besides

At the Colombes pool in France on the eve of departure to Dalian, location of the French team holding camp, Laure Manaudou, defending champion in the 400m freestyle, declared that she will drop her signature event after the Games in Beijing in favour of a focus on backstroke.

In an interview with several papers, the world champion in the 200m and 400m freestyle before her world changed dramatically following a split with coach Philippe Lucas, said that her ambition in Beijing would be 'to make the semis in all my events and to get into the final of the 400m'. At heart and in mind, she craved more, as the conclusion of her interview proved.

Where did her best chances rest? 'The focus will be to get into the final, and once there, it will be depend on the other girls who make it, and how much I know about them and their tactics,' said Manaudou, who lost her 400m world record to Italian Federica Pellegrini in March but still holds the 200m global mark.

Asked about how she saw the 400m in Beijing, Manaudou replied: 'It's very easy ... I'm not the best. I go there with the 5th, 6th or 7th best time. I will watch the girls who have better times going in. For once, I'll be on the other side of things [not the favourite], and that suits me fine.'

She adds: 'I feel an enormous pressure as far as the 400m goes, that's why I'm stressed. I want to arrive at the competition with a pure focus on that race.' Her rivals 'know that I'm capable of swimming well', she added. 'Even if the current season apepars not to have gone well for me, I think they [rivals] will figure that I'm ready to race the 400m and other events.'

After Beijing she would 'stop racing that [the 400m] at the highest level. I want to change a few things and see where I can go on the 100m and 200m backstroke.'

As to the suit she has chosen to wear, Manaudou is reported to have answered with a smile: 'You'll see.&quote;

What did she hope to get out of these Games? 'There are lots of expectations, a lot of people supporting the France team. I'd like to retain the title I have but I'd love to add more. This is the most important competition of my career. I want to prove that I can back-up after all that has happened this year.'