VIDEO.  Swimming: Léon Marchand world champion, the Toulouse prodigy who burns the stages

VIDEO. Swimming: Léon Marchand world champion, the Toulouse prodigy who burns the stages

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The young native of the Pink City won, on Saturday June 18, the title of world champion in the 400m medley, during the World Championships in Budapest (Hungary). This, by achieving an XXL performance in the final. He confirms the hopes placed in him and asserts himself as the leader of tricolor swimming with, in sight, the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024.

Budapest was to be a stage on the way to Paris-2024 for Léon Marchand, but the World Swimming Championships organized in the Hungarian capital have devoted an exceptional swimmer, author at 20 of the 2nd best performance of all time on 400 m medley.

In his N.4 lane, the young Frenchman won the gold medal on the evening of Saturday June 18, smashing his French record set in the morning in the heats, improving the European record and offering himself the 2nd best performance in the world behind the inaccessible (for the moment?) Michael Phelps.

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On a day in which he took his French record of 4:09.65, set at the National Championships last year, to 4:09.09 in the semi-finals before dramatically lowering it in the final to 4:04.28, Marchand has definitively said goodbye to his status as one of the great hopes of French swimming to enter the circle of confirmed swimmers.

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On the shelves of the Fina, the international federation, only Michael Phelps, the greatest swimmer in history with his 23 Olympic titles, swam the 400m medley faster: it was at the Beijing Games in 2008, with 4:03.84. Phelps was 23 years old.

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Tokyo, Toulouse, Phoenix

The Toulousain follows in the wake of the American, now training in the United States with his ex-mentor, Bob Bowman. The association was quick to raise a sensational wave: never before had the young Frenchman taken part in the World Championships.

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Two other individual races await him in Budapest: the 200m butterfly on Tuesday and the 200m medley the next day. The young man with a smiling face knew he was eagerly awaited in Budapest. Last summer in Tokyo, the versatile swimmer had already made an impression by reaching the Olympic final in the 400m medley (6th) when he was only 19 years old.

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“It’s the World Championships, there is still a high level so it’s time to be on top,” he confided before winning Budapest. “(But) I’m pretty relaxed in terms of expectations.”

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Since the Japanese adventure, his trajectory took an American turn which led him from Toulouse to Phoenix, Arizona, where he trains under the guidance of Bob Bowman, the emblematic coach of Phelps. “It made me feel a little weird the first few weeks, but I was really happy to discover a lot of things,” he says.

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In the American West, he also discovered the intensity of training. “In the United States, swimmers are always at their fullest, whereas I had my quiet little warm-up,” he continued. “I arrived, I was shocked”, he added again with the language of a young man of his time. Visible consequence of these new methods: “I gained a few pounds,” he smiles. “I think there are two things that did that, it’s the bodybuilding (…) and the food. The food is still much fattier there, we eat a lot of burgers, pizzas, It’s like in the movies!”

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“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 beneficial,” he said.

Cap on the final of the Paris Games

Since his American exile, the Toulousain, from a family of Olympic swimmers, has chained very high level performances with a French record in the 200 m medley or a university record in the 200 yard medley in the spring, until there owned by the American Caeleb Dressel, one of his inspirations.

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“It’s very easy to work with him”, explains Bob Bowman, with whom he is very close. “He is focused on what he has to do. He has very clear objectives. (…) We will see how far he can go, but I think he can go very far.” Until the Olympic podium in two years in Paris? “In my head, I always wanted to be on this path,” explains Marchand. “I didn’t think it would be this fast. I didn’t think I was going to make it in the United States in my first year but I always had it in my mind that I wanted to be an Olympic champion one day. I don’t know when , we’ll see.”

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In Paris for the home Games, he could well be one of the most followed sportsmen. His performance in Budapest will only heighten the expectations placed on him. What he is already preparing for with the help of a mental trainer. “We’ve put a lot of things in place for Paris because we know it’s going to be the time when there will be the most expectations and pressure,” he says. “It’s growing so I try to adapt every day and I think I manage it better and better. Now the stress allows me to go faster”.

“It’s what is needed in fact, because it’s good to swim fast in meetings, but the most important thing is the Olympics. So we put things in place that allow me to be good at the present moment, that is to say in the final at the Games in Paris.”

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