Rencontre avec Romain Barnier, coach du Cercle des Nageurs de Marseille

Meeting with Romain Barnier, coach of the Cercle des Nageurs de Marseille

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At the very end of this place in Marseille that we call the Corniche, facing the island of Frioul on the horizon, there is this projection on the sea where two extraordinary swimming pools have been built and filled. This is the Cercle des Nageurs, a distinguished institution of the city and a landmark of champions. The head coach of the “CNM”, as they say, is the former representative of the French Olympic team Romain Barnier, who experienced the Sydney Games in 2000 and those of Athens, four years later. In addition to having won the French freestyle championships ten times. This figure from Marseille, the polar opposite of the mold-pack-and-combed-hair image of the diving board coach, welcomes us into the large room bathed in light which sits at the top of the Circle. And just before starting the interview, he made one of his colleagues think that in the future, the water in the interior pool will have to be set at a temperature of 27.5 degrees and not 25, 5.

Is it easy for a swimmer to appear in swimming trunks in front of the public at a swimming pool, or is there a form of modesty in these cases?

Let me be clear: it is extremely easy. Briefs are a piece that is completely enough to dress a man, I think. Still, there is a huge difference between someone who is naked and someone who is dressed in swimming trunks. Certainly, being in underwear is a form of exposure, but the swimmer does not suffer it. He works his body to ensure that he always looks as beautiful as possible once he is in his underwear.

Today, many swimmers enter competitions wearing wetsuits? What is special about these clothes?

The suit is developed by advanced technologies. It is woven, and rewoven, then covered with Teflon. Unlike classic clothing, we don't put it on. We mount it on his body, centimeter by centimeter. It's generally a fight lasting a quarter of an hour. I believe that wearing a swimsuit is the strongest feeling you can have with a piece of clothing. It's an armor, the body is connected to another dimension. We are another person. This is an extreme change.

How has your relationship with fashion evolved?

As a former elite swimmer, I spent part of my life in tracksuits. During this time, comfort took precedence over everything. I wore clothes that were easy to put on and take off. With time, and retirement, I became interested in fashion. I wanted to have style, to have character through my clothes. Today I like to walk in the street, especially in Paris, and take inspiration from what I see around me, from the people I meet, to develop my look. Even though fashion isn't a priority, it's still something important to me. I consider that my clothes allow me to tell the world who I am. And I'm evolving. I went through a period where I only wore very tight pants - be careful, I was no longer a swimmer, my thighs could fit into them! Today, let’s say I’m very casual. I wear carrot pants, a little wide. I feel good inside. I like to wear wool pants in winter and chinos in summer, with a shirt and a jacket. It looks like the costume, but not quite. I don't feel good in a suit. The only eccentricities I show are very long coats. I also like very colorful socks, or a pair of patent red shoes. On the other hand, it’s impossible to make me wear something with prints on it.

Ultimately, the only times I put on a so-called "coach's outfit" is during official competitions, when there is a uniform standard of clothing to respect.

What outfit do you wear when you have to train the Circle swimmers?

At these times, most coaches religiously go to the locker room to put on a pool outfit: polo shirt, shorts, flip flops and a stopwatch around their neck. This may seem surprising, but it is not my case. By the pool, I'm never in sportswear. Especially because I don't want to waste my time changing in a locker room several times a day. I like to stay the same, from evening to morning. And I don't need to be dressed like that to make myself understood by my swimmers. Most of the time, I'm in jeans, and that doesn't create any distance from them. I think athletes like to have a coach with style.

At the edge of the pools, I simply hem my jeans to avoid getting chlorinated water on them, I wear flip flops, or I cover my shoes with a protective bag, like in chemical factories. Ultimately, the only times I put on a so-called "coach's outfit" is during official competitions, when there is a uniform standard of clothing to respect.

What are your favorite subjects?

For me, above all, clothes must be easy to wear. I love wool because it doesn't wrinkle. In my closet, for example, I have this flannel shirt that never needs to be ironed after washing. I think it's great. Conversely, although linen is a sublime material, it is not my favorite because the shirt changes shape when you wear it. My dream would be to develop a shirt that has the comfort of linen and the invulnerability of a swimming suit. Linen and cotton?