Wednesday, March 1, 2017

OLYMPIC CHAMPION ALAIN BERNARD ELECTED TO THE HALL OF FAME

Olympic 100m Champion, 4x Olympic medalist

FORT LAUDERDALE - The International Swimming Hall of
Fame (ISHOF) announced today that Frenchman ALAIN BERNARD, will become one of seventeen (17) honorees to enter the International Swimming Hall of Fame as the Class of 2017. Bernard is the tenth individual to be named for ceremonies to be held August 25-27, in Fort Lauderdale. Previously, Open water swimmer Maarten Van Der Weijden, swimmers Wu Chuanyu (CHN) and Takeshi “Halo” Hirose (USA) Georges Vallerey, Jr. (FRA), diver Zhang Xiuwei (CHN), long distance swimmer Walter Poenisch (USA), water polo player Osvaldo Codaro (ARG), coach Dick Jochums (USA) and photojournalist Heinz Kluetmeier have been announced.
Born on May Day, 1983 in Aubagne, Bouches-du-Rhône, France, Alain Bernard dreamed of being a football (aka soccer) player, but at his mother’s insistence he learned to swim at the age of six and this experience would mold his future. He swam for a small club in Augagne until the age of sixteen. With hopes of swimming in the 2004 Olympic Games, he switched to Club Marseille, to train under coach Denis Augin. But he contracted mononucleosis and failed to make the French team.  Returning to the pool he continued a slow but steady progression in the 50 and 100m freestyle. Early in 2007, he followed his coach to a new club, Antibes, and it would be a break-out year for Alain. in February, he broke the French record in the 100 meters and later claimed his first European Championship title in the same event. Then in March of 2008, at the European Championships, he set his first world records, besting the time of Peter van den Hoogenband by 24 one hundredths in the 100m, and Eamon Sullivan’s 50m record by .06.   A month later he qualified for the Beijing Olympic Games in Both events. 

Alain’s experience in Beijing began with bitter disappointment, when the USA took the gold medal from the favored French team in the 4 x 100m freestyle relay. On top of that, he also lost his world record to Eamon Sullivan who had led off Australia’s relay with a phenomenal swim. But two days later, Alain reclaimed his record in his 100m semi-final, before losing it again to Sullivan in his semi. In the final, however, it was Alain Bernard who won the 100m gold medal, and with his victory he became France’s first male Olympic gold medalist since Jean Boiteaux won the 400m freestyle, at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games. The next day he won a bronze medal in the 50m event and left Beijing with three medals, each of a different metal, equaling the performance of Laure Manaudou four years earlier in Athens.  

In April of 2009, Alain Bernard ushered in the shiny suit era by becoming the first swimmer to break the :47 second barrier in the 100m freestyle, and breaking Sullivan’s record with a time of 46.94.  Unfortunately, the suit he wore was one not later approved by FINA and his record was unrecognized. 

Leading up to the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Alain continued to be among the world’s top sprinters and although he missed qualifying in individual events, he was a member of the French 4 x 100 meter free relay that finally won the gold after knocking on the door of greatness for most of his career.  Upon returning to France, at the age of 29, he announced his retirement as his country’s most decorated Olympic swimmer, owning a total of four medals (two gold, one silver and one bronze) at two Olympic Games (2008 and 2012).  In January 2013, Bernard was made an Officer of the French National Order of Merit and he later traveled to Africa as an Ambassador for UNICEF.  Then in 2015, he was selected to participate in the French adventure game show, “Dropped.” He was on the ground in Argentina when he learned that there had been a helicopter accident that killed his fellow contestants, including 2012 Olympic 400m champion Camille Muffat, who was inducted into the ISHOF posthumously in 2016.  

Saying that “Camille is always in my heart,” he visited her family and attended the inauguration of the swimming pool bearing her name.  The tragedy has given him a greater appreciation for life and today he is very involved sharing his love of swimming in his role as ambassador and technical advisor for the French AquaSphere brand of swim equipment.  

About ISHOF
The International Hall of Fame, established in 1965, is a not-for-profit educational organization located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Its mission is to promote the benefits and importance of swimming as a key to fitness, good health, quality of life, and the water safety of all adults and children.  It accomplishes this through operation of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, a dynamic shrine dedicated to preserving the history of swimming, the memory and recognition of the famous swimmers, divers, water polo players, synchronized swimmers and people involved in life saving activities and education whose lives and accomplishments inspire, educate, and provide role models for people around the world. For more information contact Bruce Wigo at 954-462-6536 ext. 201, or by email bwigo@ishof.org



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