For half a year now, Lisa Pou has been a prominent figure in Monegasque sport. The 24-year-old swimmer has already fulfilled her promise by becoming the first athlete from the Principality to officially qualify for the Olympic Games in Paris. Pou did so on February 3 by finishing ninth in a 10km race with a time of 1.57.33 at the World Open Water Swimming Championships in Doha, meeting the qualification requirements of the IOC.

If all goes well, Pou will swim in the Seine in the 10km Olympic event on August 8. At least if the river can meet the safety conditions of IOC, otherwise this event will take place on the Olympic rowing course.

Pou will participate for Monaco, having become naturalised on October 24, 2023, after years of competing in international competitions for France, even taking home a medal for the country. At the 2018 European Championships in Glasgow, she won bronze with the French relay team. Although she was born in Fréjus, Pou has been coming to Monaco to train since she was twelve years old.

“Let’s just say that there was an opportunity that presented itself to me. Of course, I took it, knowing that I was given a lot in the Principality,” she said to Nice-Matin. “Many people in the Principality have always supported me in my career. Wearing the country’s colours internationally and at the Olympics, in addition to being an honour for me, is a return of all that they have given me,” she explained in an interview with the magazine, Code Sport Monaco, adding that “I hope to perform well at the Games to prove that I can do great things for the Principality.”

Pou qualified for the World Championships in Doha as a Frenchwoman by winning the Martinique 10km in April, 2023. After qualifying for the Olympics, a weight was lifted from her shoulders. “It’s also a bit of a coincidence that I was able to qualify for Paris so early in my sport, but I am also very honoured to be able to go to those Games on behalf of Monaco.”

Pou was preparing for the World Cup in South Africa, where not everything went according to plan. “I didn’t feel very good in the water. I felt pain in my shoulders that was not usual. As a bonus, we caught a small virus that was circulating in the country with inconveniences that prevented us from training properly,” she told Code Sport. But in the end, she was in shape just in time; “I felt much better than the last few days in training. The day before the race, I put myself in my bubble to take stock of what I was experiencing. Ok, the last month wasn’t exceptional, but it wasn’t going to destroy the work I had done beforehand, nor was it going to impact my performance.”

The talented swimmer subsequently finished ninth in the swimming marathon, only seven seconds behind world champion Sharon van Rouwendaal. This certainly offers perspective for future races, although Pou herself tempers expectations.

Monaco’s latest Olympic representative was trained by her father Michel Pou, who competed twice in the Olympics as a swimmer himself, as a member of the French 4×200 free relay team. Through him, she not only came in contact with the sport, but also got the passion to participate in open water competitions. “It started by following my father, when he was coaching at the club La Semeuse from Nice. I accompanied his open water team, and I liked the atmosphere in this group. It is this sharing with others that made me want to do it. I’m quite reserved and, with them, I felt like I belonged. And I liked swimming these longer distances and being able to stay in my bubble without anyone bothering me. I like being alone.” Swimming in the open water can also result in challenging conditions. For Lisa, the water can’t be rough enough; “When it’s on the verge of a storm, I love it, I feel connected to nature, and I have fun.”

As a special attraction of the Paris Olympic Games, open water swimming will take place in the River Seine. The 10km marathon route is through Paris, under the Pont Neuf, the Pont Alexandre and the Pont de l’Alma to the Eiffel Tower. “I hope that we will be able to swim in the Seine, that there will be no problems in terms of water quality. It’s magnificent, a huge opportunity. It’s true that I prefer to swim in big waves. In the Seine, there can be quite a high current and it’s not what I prefer, but we will all have the same conditions,” the swimmer said.

She will prepare for the Olympic Games by participating in the European Championships in Belgrade, where the competitions will take place in the Danube from June 10 to 13. The conditions in this river correspond to those of the Seine. After the Olympics, Pou certainly wants to continue swimming, but she may also switch to another discipline. The backstroke is her preference.

Featured image courtesy of @lisapou on Instagram