The Royal Belgian Swimming Federation has made a splashy hire, bringing in Fred Vergnoux as the new National Head Coach of Swimming.
The French-born Vergnoux most recently had been the head coach of the National Training Center in Spain as well as the country’s head Olympic coach since 2013.
With Ben Titley now on his way to Spain, Vergnoux is headed to Belgium.
Vergnoux’s most recent success was as the coach of Mireia Belmonte, owner of four Olympic medals, including a 200 fly gold from the 2016 Olympic Games. Besides Belmonte, he has worked with Alena Popchenka† Amaury Leveauxand Kirsty Balfour†
In total, Vergnoux’s swimmers have earned 5 Olympic medals in swimming, which is the same number that Belgium has won in the history of its nation.
The RBSF says that their intention is to “build up a performing Belgian swimming team again over the next 6 years” until at least the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games under Vergnoux. He will have the “direct sport technical leadership” of both the elites and the juniors in addition to steering talent identification and talent development programs.
Belgium only sent two swimmers to the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics: Louis Croenen, who was 28th in the 100 fly and 16th in the 200 fly; and Fanny Lecluyse, who was 26th in the 100 breast and 8th in the 200 breast. Lecluyse, who last raced at the 2021 Short Course World Championships in December, was sent home early after an “incident of inappropriate behavior” when she appeared drunk in the Olympic Village. Lecluyse announced her retirement in December.
Croenen will be the lone male representative for Belgium in the pool at the World Championships that begin on Saturday, where he will swim the 100 fly and 200 fly. Three women will travel to Budapest: Valentine Dumont (100/200/400 free), Fleur Vermeiren (50 breast), and Florine Gaspard (50 breast/100 breast). Logan Vanhuys will also compete in open water events.
Belgium qualified big rosters of both men and women, including men’s relays, for the 2015 and 2019 World Championships. The country’s most recent medal at the World Aquatics Championships came in 1998, when Frederik Deburghgraeve won the men’s 100 breaststroke.
The hiring of Vergnoux comes after the president of the RBSF Daniel Motton resigned in early May.
Vergnoux’s previous stops include as a coach at Racing club de France (1997 -2000), CS Clichy 92 (2002 -2004), Head Coach City of Edinburgh (2004 -2008), Great Britain men’s head coach (OS Beijing Great Britain), club Natacion Sabadell, Head Coach & Spanish National Team Coach (2010 -2013).
His athletes’ accomplishments:
- 8 World records
- 11 European records
- 3 Commonwealth records
- 9 South American records
- 5 Olympic medals
- 22 World Championship Medals
- 38 European Championship medals
In Belgium, Vergnoux will be working with a population about a quarter of the size of Spain at 11.5 million residents.
BELSWIM has 70,600 registered members at recreational and competitive levels across the five Olympic disciplines, of which 75% are youth members under 18. They compete in 233 affiliated clubs, 149 Flemish-speaking and 84 French speaking.
Vergnoux takes over the post from Ronald Claes, who started the job on September 1 of last year. He was ousted earlier this year after the influential FFBN, which oversees the French clubs, terminated him as their head coach. That left the national federation with no choice but to terminate him as well. FFBN is credited heavily in the recruitment of Vergnoux by the national federation.