Getty Images

Olympic champion Florent Manaudou returns to the pool with sights set on Tokyo

Leave a comment

Olympic gold medalist Florent Manaudou of France is back to competitive swimming after more than two years away.

The 28-year-old, who won gold in the 50m free at the London 2012 Games and two silver medals in Rio before taking a hiatus, told L’Equipe he plans to train for the Tokyo 2020 Games with the International Swimming League (ISL) Energy Standard squad.

“I’ve been thinking for months. I want to resume the competition,” he told L’Equipe. “For some time, I miss it more and more…talking with my family, my former coaches, I set myself a challenge: to jump [back] in the competition.”

One of the first people he consulted was his sister, Laure, who won gold in the 400m free at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Florent, then 13, watched from the stands in Greece, but they made a pact to compete together at the Olympics, fulfilling that goal in London.

Entering the Rio Games as the reigning Olympic and world champion in the 50m free, Manaudou was the favorite in an often unpredictable event. He came up just .01 seconds short of a second straight Olympic title, finishing behind American Anthony Ervin. After the Games, Manaudou told French newspaper La Provence that his ultimate goal was to compete at the Olympics in two different sports, and shifted his attention to handball (his father, Jean-Luc, was a handball player and coach). Manaudou also worked as a commentator for French TV during the 2017 World Championships and 2018 European Championships.

But still, the pool was calling. And Manaudou sensed he had untapped potential.

“I don’t even know what I can do,” he said, according to L’Equipe. 

He’ll have a team of accomplished training mates with the Energy Standard team: Olympic gold medalists Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden and South Africa’s Chad le Clos are both team captains.

David Boudia adjusts diving event, goal for world championships

Getty Images
Leave a comment

David Boudia earned diving medals at his last three world championships and the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, but that was on the platform. He competes on the global stage on the springboard for the first time at worlds this week.

“I don’t have a lot of high hopes,” Boudia, who is still learning the springboard after switching to it in the last year, said in a phone interview from South Korea, where he begins competition Wednesday (TV schedule here). “But I think my biggest goal is to walk away with an Olympic spot.”

An Olympic spot not necessarily for himself, but for the U.S.

Boudia, a 30-year-old father of three, and any other American will clinch 2020 Olympic quota spots by placing in the top 12 in their respective individual events this week. Those spots, and any others earned at later competitions in the next year, will be filled at trials in June in Indianapolis.

NBC Sports analyst Cynthia Potter believes Boudia, who left the sport to sell homes in 2017 and came back and suffered a concussion off the platform in 2018, can meet his goal of making Friday’s 12-man final in Gwangju.

“He would have to dive well, but not better than he’s been diving,” she said. “His springboard is really well-timed, rhythmic, and he’s for a long time known how to go into the water without making a splash.”

But challenging Rio Olympic gold and silver medalists Cao Yuan of China and Jack Laugher of Great Britain, plus defending world champion Xie Siyi of China would be very tough.

Boudia lacks their degrees of difficulty, for now. He hopes to switch out two of his six dives before his first competition of 2020, though he could insert one of them should he make the world final.

“I need a good six months, so from August to December is when we’re kind of really drilling the fundamentals of learning those new dives and getting them perfected,” he said.

Boudia rallied to beat Rio Olympic springboard diver Michael Hixon for the title in May at nationals, where the top two per event earned world berths. But Boudia competed there with about a month of competition dive practice, about half as long as he would prefer.

“Hix and I are going to have a lot of training to do if we want to be even close to cracking that top five,” at worlds, Boudia said in May, according to TeamUSA.org.

Boudia is the lone U.S. diver to earn an individual world medal in an Olympic diving event since 2009.

The U.S. produced breakthroughs at worlds so far. Sarah Bacon became the first American woman to earn a world title since 2005, taking the non-Olympic 1m springboard event. Murphy Bromberg and Katrina Young bagged bronze in synchronized platform, ending a decade-long medal drought in any synchro event.

But Boudia’s goal must be shared among the whole team — as many top-12 finishes individually and top three in synchro events to gobble up Tokyo 2020 quota spots. The U.S. failed to qualify full teams for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

“Getting in the top 12 in the four individual Olympic events is the big deal right now,” Potter said. “Whether you are on the awards stand or not, that would be icing on the cake for a lot of these divers.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Diving Worlds TV Schedule

Anita Wlodarczyk, one of track and field’s most dominant, sidelined

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Poland hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk, the only woman to win the last five combined Olympic and world titles in a track and field event, will not go for a fourth straight world championship this fall.

Wlodarczyk had season-ending, arthroscopic left knee surgery on Monday, according to Polish media citing her coach.

Wlodarczyk, 33, has the top 15 throws on the IAAF’s all-time list, and 27 of the top 29. Her world record of 82.98 meters (scribbled on her leg pre-op) is 11 and a half feet farther the second-best woman in history. She originally took silver at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 Worlds but was upgraded to gold after Russian Tatyana Lysenko was stripped for doping.

Wlodarczyk won a reported 42 straight finals between 2014 and 2017, then suffered three losses in 2018 and two so far this year in three lower-level meets before the operation.

Americans DeAnna Price and Brooke Anderson rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the world this year. A U.S. woman has never finished in the top five of an Olympic or world championships hammer throw, which debuted at worlds in 1999 and the Olympics in 2000.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Wayde van Niekerk has setback in return from injury