Léon Marchand, the French prodigy who burns the stages

Portrait of the new sensation of French swimming, Léon Marchand, in gold on Saturday in the 400 meters combined at the World Championships in Budapest.

Budapest was supposed to be a stage on the road to Paris 2024 for Léon Marchand, but the World Swimming Championships held in the Hungarian capital have dedicated an exceptional swimmer, author, at the age of 20, of the 2nd best performance of all time over 400 meters combined. In his No. 4 lane, the young Frenchman won the gold medal on Saturday evening, breaking his French record set in the morning in the series, improving the European record and taking the 2nd best performance in the world behind the inaccessible (for now?) Michael Phelps.

In a day in which he took his French record of 4: 09.65, set in the National Championships last year, to 4: 09.09 in the semifinals before drastically lowering it in the final to 4: 04.28, Marchand has Definitely fired from his status as one of the great hopes of French swimming to enter the circle of confirmed swimmers. On the shelves of Fina, the international federation, only Michael Phelps, the greatest swimmer in history with his 23 Olympic titles, swam the fastest 400 meters combined: he went to the 2008 Beijing Games with 4: 03.84 . Phelps was 23 years old.

Tokyo, Toulouse, Phoenix

Toulousain is following in the footsteps of the American, now training in the United States with his ex, Bob Bowman. The association was quick to raise a sensational wave: never before had the young Frenchman taken part in the World Cup. Two more individual races await him in Budapest: the 200 m butterfly on Tuesday and the combined 200 m the next day.

The smiling young man knew he was looking forward to it in Budapest. Last summer in Tokyo, the versatile swimmer had already impressed by reaching the Olympic final in the combined 400 meters (6th) when he was only 19 years old. “It’s the World Championships, there’s still a high level so it’s time to be in the lead“, he confided before arriving in Budapest.”(But) I’m pretty relaxed with expectations“, added.

From the Japanese adventure, his career took an American turn that took him from Toulouse to Phoenix, Arizona, where he trained under the direction of Bob Bowman, the iconic coach of Phelps. “It made me a little weird the first few weeks, but I was very happy to find out a lot“He also discovered the intensity of training in the American West.”In the United States, swimmers always go at full speed, while I do my little warm-up quietly“, it continued. “I arrived surprisedhe added again in the language of a young man of his time.

Visible consequence of these new methods: “I gained a few poundshe smiles. “I think there are two things they did, it’s bodybuilding (…) and food. The food is even fatter there, we eat a lot of burgers, pizzas, it’s like in the movies!“.”But I think I feel better in the water. I’m more powerful and I can finish my races better, so in the end it’s beneficialhe believes.

Cap on the final of the Paris Games

Since his American exile, the Toulousain, of a family of Olympic swimmers, has chained high-level performances with a French record in the 200 meters combined or a university record in the 200 meters combined in the spring, until then owned by the American Caeleb. Dressel, one of his inspirations. “It is very easy to work with him“says Bob Bowman, with whom he is very close.”He is focused on what he has to do. He has very clear goals. (…) We’ll see how far it can go, but I think it can go a long way.»

Up to the Olympic podium in two years’ time in Paris? “In my head, I always wanted to be on this path“Marchand explains.”I didn’t think it would be that fast. I didn’t plan on winning in the United States the first year, but I always kept in mind that I wanted to be an Olympic champion someday. I don’t know when, we’ll see.»

In Paris for the Home Games, he could be one of the most followed athletes. His performance in Budapest will only increase his expectations for him. What is already being prepared with the help of a mental trainer. “We have set many things in motion for Paris because we know it will be the time when there will be more expectations and pressure.“Trust me.”It’s growing, so I try to adapt every day and I think I’m managing it better and better. Now stress makes me go faster“.

And add:That’s the decent thing to do, and it should end there. So let’s put things together that allow me to be right at the moment, that is, in the final of the Paris Games.»

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