Thursday, Jul. 24, 2008

27. Laure Manaudou

Age: 21

For much of the time since her break-out triple-medal performance at the Athens Games, Laure Manaudou has been a dominant force in international swimming. Sheracked up 19 world and European long course titles since 2004, setting world marks in the 200m and 400m freestyle. But controversy — and perhaps age — have weighed Manaudou down recently. In 2007, she bilked her long-time coach to train with Italian boyfriend Luca Marin at his club —relationships that ended simultaneously months later amid poor results, public feuding, and the publication of naked photos of Manaudou on the web. She returned to France to disprove rumors that her unwillingness to train hard had been behind her flurry of disappointing performances. But that move has not restored the unbeatable Manaudou of old. Though she qualified for Beijing in the 400m freestyle, 100m and 200m backstroke, and 400m medley relay, Manaudou struggled to best her modest French rivals—and failed to earn a spot to defend her 200m freestyle world record.