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Manaudou qualifies after all

Latest update : 2008-04-22

Laure Manaudou finished a disappointing third in the 400m freestyle final at the French national championships. Her first season defeat in the event, it was still enough to guarantee her a place at the Beijing Olympics. (Report: FRANCE 2/M.MacCarthy)

Olympic and world champion Laure Manaudou was reduced to tears on Monday after suffering her first defeat in the 400m in nearly four years at the French national championships.

Manaudou, 21, finished just third in the event for which she won gold in Athens four years ago, behind Romanian Camelia Potec and Coralie Balmy, who took the national title.

The French swimmer had not been beaten over her favourite distance since June 2004.

"It's tough. Above all being beaten. I can only say one thing, I'm waiting for the new Arena suit," said Manaudou after the race.

Under contract with Arena, Manaudou does not have the new record-breaking swimsuit of rival sponsors including Speedo, which are considered to give swimmers an advantage.

Manaudou, who lost her world record last month to Italy's Federica Pellegrini (4:01.53), nevertheless booked her spot for the Olympics with her time of 4min 6.67sec.

Despite getting off to a poor start Manaudou was leading going into the final 100m before Potec, who has been coached for the past year by Manaudou's ex-mentor Philippe Lucas, produced a storming finish to touch first in 4:06.08.

Potec did not win the title because she is not French, with Balmy taking the honours by finishing second in 4:06.41.

After the medals ceremony, Manaudou did not take part in the photo session with Potec and Balmy as she was comforted in the stands by her parents.

Manaudou, tipped as France's top hope of swimming gold at the Beijing Games, has had a stormy season in which she has changed club and coaches.

But she had competed just twice this season over 400m - last November in Montpellier and February in Lyon (4:05.61).

Date created : 2008-04-21