Since the Budapest Worlds in June, French swimming has returned to the spotlight after a few complicated years. With eight medals in the sprint, including two gold, and a new generation that is finally reaching maturity, the Blues have relaunched the machine at the right time, two years before the Paris Olympics. As the European championships begin Thursday, August 11, the coach of Insep (National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance) Michel Chrétien, who takes care of Maxime Grousset in particular, talks about this renewal. at franceinfo: sport.
Franceinfo: sport: How did the French team prepare despite this short time between Budapest and Rome?
Michel Chretien: The entire delegation spent a week in Vichy (Allier). The form is coming back little by little, but it is sure that we came out of the Worlds with great fatigue. The most difficult thing was to recover, but also to set a new goal for the European Championships. The distance between the two is small, so the problem was to take into account this fatigue, both mental and physical.
With my swimmers, I changed our usual way of operating. We had to be more pragmatic and think in the short term. As they reached the international chronometric level, I used it as a basis and an asset for them to reproduce this performance again and that they use this confidence as the main driver of their success, if not optimally prepared.
The Blues come out of the Worlds successful after several years of scarcity. How to explain this revival?
The results are quite cyclical unless you are in the United States, Russia or China. This new generation is the result of work undertaken a few years ago. Means have been implemented to allow these young people to hatch,first at the level of the coaches. They accompanied this generation from start to finish without stopping. Athletes are not numerous, nor do we have a reserve of coaches and training sites to allow this renewal. This may explain the ups and downs.
One of the revelations of these World Cups is Maxime Grousset, a swimmer you train…
I am close to him as to all my swimmers. I took good care of him when he arrived from New Caledonia. What drives it is competition. He is not afraid in the final. He likes to play. For the little anecdote, before the final of the 100 free meters in Budapest (where Grousset won the silver medal), he came to see me and told me that he would be on the podium, and that he even thought to be able to win. He felt very strong. It’s Maxime, he has no barriers.
You took charge of the swimming excellence center at Insep in 2018. How do you judge its evolution?
The results atInsep were quite quick because the means are much higher than those of the clubs. Here, an injured athlete is treated within fifteen minutes. In a club, the process is much longer. It’s a huge time saver. We can do much better in the future, but we have already unlocked the tools to allow us to observe the swimmer from every angle. I now have a powerful video analysis system. I just have to press a button to see such a line or such a swimmer at any time. This is essential.
“I used my past experiences at Insep to set up an optimal performance system. It was not easy because swimming is not a king sport. But success leads to the means. My coaching experience with Jérémy Stravius, and now with Maxime Grousset, has also opened doors for me.”Michel Chrétien, swimming coach
at franceinfo: sport
Relations with the clubs have not always been good. Has this been a brake on the evolution of French swimming?
Previously, the structure was based on clubs and theInsep was not recognized. Swimmers preferred clubs. We had to find a training structure and a team. You had to create a sense of belonging and behave like them. It was the first step. The means have also been deployed by the national technical management so that we shine again.
How do these new relationships with other clubs translate?
I suggested that my colleagues come to train here at Insep. I notably proposed it to Florent Manaudou, so that he can share his knowledge and enjoy the facilities here. But for a short time. I wish theInsep becomes a center of information and that it is used by everyone to have another look at the training and the means put in place. I just want the France team to evolve, pas swimmers change labels. I want them to stay at their club, but also come to us.
Did Florent Manaudou come?
He had come last winter, quickly. The door is always open.
The radical change is also the arrival of a man at the head of French swimming: the Dutchman Jacco Verhaeren…
Because of his results, he is someone we respect a lot. In our sport, we tend to listen to people from our own circle. He has a nice business card. But more than that, it brings Anglo-Saxon management. There is a lot of pragmatism. He has great ambition for the France team, without bias. He has a vision of the high level and only that. He wants a great France team. He is the link between everyone, the staff and the swimmers. He communicates with everyone and does not forget anyone.