Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Florent Manadou: The True Most Unbelievable Performance
Of all the amazing things that happened in London, I feel that the most amazing of them all got severely underplayed. Sure, it was considered somewhat of a shocker when previously unheralded (or shall we say "less-heralded") Florent Manaudou walked away with the "world's fastest swimmer" crown towards the end of the meet. But it was more than a little shocker: Manaudou stripped huge chunks off his lifetime best in an event just one year. His swim was the most unbelievable performance in the 2012 games.
There are several reasons Manaudou was able to fly under the radar with such a crazy performance. In fact, there are almost too many to name. Lets get them out in list form:
1. The "it's the 50, anything can happen!" factor. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Because of the brevity of the race, people lose their minds when analyzing the 50. There was very little random about Cielo's 50 victory in 2008, likewise Gary Hall (and Anthony Ervin the first time around) in the two previous Olympiads. Popov before that? Pretty sure he was just the fastest guy and he won. This misconception needs it's own post, but I think it's safe to say most people perceive the 50 as flukey and therefore accept a guy dropping a full second in a calendar year to win the event. Which brings me to my next reason:
2. Misunderstanding of scale. A second is a lifetime in 50 free. Imagine if Nathan Adrian had not only one the 100 free in 47.6, but did so after only having gone 49.6 the previous year. Or if Agnel had been 1:47 for his best a year prior his 1:43.1 victory. Imagine is Sun Yang had just broken 15 minutes for the first time this year and went all the way down to 14:31. That is how crazy this performance was. Not only that, but scale mask how huge a margin of victory Manaudou had. He didn't touch anyone out: .2 seconds in the 50 is a hugely decisive win
3. I think because he is "Laure's brother" and really tall (roughly 2m or 6'6-6'7) we all assume he is supernaturally talented and thus can pretend we all saw this coming. Likewise...
4. He's French and they've had sprinters coming out of the woodwork for many years in a row now so we are a little desensitized to it.
5. Lastly, the swimming world was still too busy picking sides in the landmark "John Leonard vs rationality" debate, and just minutes before this race we had watched Caitlin Ledecky have a crazy, incredible swim herself.
Make no mistake, this was a huge anomaly of a swim. It was the type of swim that a few years ago would have inspired Craig Lord to add another 10,000 word entry, his 96th thesis on why "Shiny Suits" must all be sent back to the alien planet that spawned them. The last, most crazy part of this swim is that he dropped nearly half a second off his lifetime best in THE FINALS OF THE OLYMPICS. IN THE 50 FREE. I think many assumed when he beat "textile best" Frederick Bousquet at French Trials that they were somehow getting cheated out of the best in the Olympic final. Little did we know it was setting up the most remarkable swim of the games.
Posted by Chris DeSantis at 12:38 PM