Christine Lagarde, the French Finance Minister and a former synchronized swimming champion, was endorsed as the new head of the International Monetary Fund.

As Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned as IMF director after his suspected sexual assault in New York, European leaders raced to settle on a candidate to replace him before the G8 summit in France next week.

I believe Christine is the outstanding candidate for the IMF - and that's why Britain will back her, said George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer of UK. Osborne praised her as, She's shown real international leadership as chair of the G20 finance ministers this year. She has also been a strong advocate for countries tackling high budget deficits and living within their means.

As a teenager, Legarde was a member of France's synchronized swimming team. After completing a Master's in English and Labor Law, Lagarde joined U.S. law firm Baker McKenzie, and later became the firm's first female chairman. She was named finance minister of France in 2007. Since then, Lagarde has maintained her popularity among financiers and the public. She speaks fluent English and is known for her sharp negotiation skills and endless stamina. Legarde is described by admirers as a rock star of the financial world.

During the euro zone's debt crisis, Lagarde has emerged as the most outspoken opponent of debt restructuring, which she warns would impose high costs on all members in terms of higher financing costs. She has preached a mantra of euro zone solidarity with large members such as France and Germany helping out troubled smaller states, provided they themselves make painful reforms such as privatizations and fiscal cuts in the case of Greece, according to Reuters.

As the first and only female economy minister of a G8 country to date, Legarde says her understated, feminine approach to negotiations can prove an asset when dealing with male peers. The Financial Times named her last year, the best economy minister in the euro zone, and Forbes ranked her the 17th-most important woman in the world, reported Reuters.

Resigned Strauss-Kahn, leading contender for the French presidency until his arrest, left jail on Friday and remains under guard in an apartment in New York's financial district where he is expected to stay until permanent housing can be found as he prepares his defense.

Legarde will mark the first female managing director of the IMF in its 60-year history. If anyone can bring new hope to France and America after the Strauss-Kahn affair, it would be the elegant, white-haired Legarde, who earned the nicknamed 'L'Américaine' after suggesting ro her compatriots, roll up our shirt-sleeves and get to work, to beat the economic woes of France.