MAINTENANCE.  Xavier Marchand: "Léon is a bit of an alien!"  The father of the young Toulouse double world swimming champion confides

MAINTENANCE. Xavier Marchand: “Léon is a bit of an alien!” The father of the young Toulouse double world swimming champion confides

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Vice-world champion (1998) and vice-champion of Europe (1997), Olympic finalist (2000) in the 200m medley, Xavier Marchand was one of the figures of the Dauphins du TOEC and the French team. Father of Léon Marchand, the new tricolor swimming prodigy, he has just experienced the incredible rise of his son during the world championships in Budapest, where Léon has settled on the summits of the swimming planet. Between the emotion of the father and the admiration of the former champion, Xavier Marchand engages in “La Dépêche du Midi”.

What is the father’s reaction to the son’s performance?

It’s quite extraordinary, it’s not easy to say, it’s so exceptional. I don’t know how to express it. Léon is a child who has always stuck with me, long before the world championships. There, he has just achieved something a little more extraordinary.

And the analysis of the former champion that you are?

It was more than 25 years ago, I’m not really a champion anymore (laughs). That’s what Léon does, he’s beautiful to see swimming, everything he does, he does it correctly, he’s always improving, which shows that he’s tough, he’s impressive. He is always in progress whether it is his technique, his flows, his turns, his breaths. Everything works well. I think he found the person who suited him with Bob Bowman (1) but if before joining the United States, Léon was already a good swimmer, he had done a very good job with Nicolas Castel (2).

Did you imagine that Léon obtained such results during these championships?

Honestly yes, I imagined seeing him break the European record for the 400m medley. It was also a beautiful image to beat him in Budapest, the country of Laszlo Cseh, the European record holder (4’06”16 in 2008, editor’s note). I saw him beat him by a hundredth except that Léon did better, much better (4’04”28, Editor’s note). Frankly, I felt he could do it but I couldn’t tell everyone (huff). I didn’t see him as fast, he surprises me every time maybe because he’s my son. But whether it’s racing, whether it’s in studies where he brings back a “very good” mention at the Baccalaureate when he hadn’t worked more than that, there’s never a hitch, it’s always rolled correctly. I remember his first races among the juniors where he beat the best French performances in 5 or 6 races. And there, it is doing the same on a global level! He’s amazing, he’s a bit of an alien, he takes on another dimension.

Read also :
INTERVIEW. Nicolas Castel, coach of Léon Marchand: “I felt he was going to achieve something big

What is Léon’s race that impressed you the most during these Worlds?

(without hesitation) The 400m medley! Knowing what it is, the training it takes to hold it, the speed, the pace, the management, etc, it’s very strong. I finished it in 4’21” and he slams 4’04”28, it will remain etched in my memory. And not only.

Léon Marchand at the finish of the 400m medley. First world gold medal.

That’s to say ?

On the night of his world title, with friends, we went to a bar in Budapest in an old building with open-air parts where people can write on the walls. There are quite a few places like that out there. A soul started and as we didn’t have a pen, using a coin, we engraved on a wall of the building his chrono “4’04”28″.

Let’s move on to the 200m medley which was your favorite race. He swam it like you, making the difference in the breaststroke. Leon is indeed his father’s son.

It’s true, he has this strength to accelerate on the breaststroke and to throw well. I would have liked to see him in the 200m breaststroke.

“When I saw him before the final of the 400m medley joining plot 4, I knew he was going to win”

He would be stronger than in 200m butterfly?

I don’t know but the 200m breaststroke didn’t fit well in the program. They made a choice with his coaches and it was the right one because he would have had the semi-final of the 200m breaststroke just before the final of the 200m medley. The ideal is to have before a final and then a semi-final. But to come back to the 200m butterfly, he broke Franck Esposito’s French record, that’s something.

Read also :
World Swimming Championships: Léon Marchand, a golden breaststroke and a new title

Speaking of records, he now has Phelps’ world record in the 400m medley (4’03”84) within reach.

It’s incredible ! It’s a crazy record. When Phelps did it in Beijing, everyone said it was unbeatable. And there, Léon is at 4 tenths… Well, it’s not over, we’re not going to sleep yet!

How did your son progress in the United States in contact with Bob Bowman?

The experience of studies in the United States is already the experience of maturity for him. In Toulouse, he was in his family cocoon. There, he manages everything on his own, his money, his papers, washing his clothes, his accommodation, in short, he manages. He learns to live in community. As for Bob Bowman, he welcomed him, did not rush him. I read that he said he had the feeling of welcoming a “little child”. So he gave her time to get her bearings. Afterwards, Léon works differently, much more in quality and intensity, a little less in quantity. He has super playful sessions and that pleases Léon who is very demanding. He always has something to improve.


This sudden success, this media craze around your son, the solicitations, does that scare you a little, his parents?

A little. We’ll see how to handle that. My phone is overheating and yet it wasn’t me who swam. We will see how to manage all that, we will do as we can.

The fact that Léon is expatriated in the United States, it is not so bad to protect him.

Yes, it’s not so bad. It was also one of the conditions of his departure to Phoenix. You know, Léon didn’t need to win world medals to have eight pages in “L’Equipe Mag”. It will be a little quieter in Phoenix. It was part of the reflection because before the Paris Olympics, we were already talking about him as a prodigy. I hope that being in the United States will protect him.

Have you rewatched his finals?

Yes, obliged! Me, I like to see all the details, analyze. I’m pretty positive in my reviews, I think I can afford to tell him but I admit it took me a while to do so. But there, 4’04”28, what do you mean? It’s monstrous, I’m speechless!

Read also :
World swimming championships: “At the beginning, Léon Marchand was not a fan of swimming” recalls the president of the Dauphins du Toec

Did you cry in front of his exploits?

It is difficult to explain. I had tears in my eyes, yes. It’s very strong what you feel when you see your son, it’s inexplicable.

The Paris Olympic Games are coming very soon. He’s going to have enormous pressure to bear now.

It’s clear, he says it, moreover, and that’s good. He is already the favorite and he will want to be in row 4. So there is a form of pressure to manage. And that will be part of his training for Paris. To be there to have line 4 in the final. It has already started to do so in Budapest. I’ll tell you, in Budapest, when I saw him before the final of the 400m medley joining plot 4, I knew he was going to win. He did it at his own pace, he undressed at his own tempo while the others waited. To do that in the final, hat, it’s very strong.

(1) His trainer at Arizona State University in Phoenix (USA)
(2) His trainer at the Dauphins du TOEC and in the French team

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