2022 World Swimming Championships: family tradition, American dream and renowned coach… What you need to know about the prodigy Léon Marchand

The kid with the golden future has become a man well on his way to stacking the medals. In Budapest, Léon Marchand, 20, began his harvest on Saturday June 18 by winning his first world title in the 400m medley. The first international senior medal for the Toulousain, and perhaps not the last given the talent of the young man.

Fed from an early age by the performance of his parents in the pools, now trained by the mentor of Michael Phelps… Here is everything you need to know about the new phenomenon of French swimming.

The Marchands, a family of great swimmers

In the Marchand family, I ask for the mother, Céline Bonnet, back specialist and multi-champion of France. I also ask for the father, Xavier Marchand, vice-world champion in 1998 in the 200m medley in Perth, Australia. I now ask the son, Léon, great hope of French swimming. At only 20 years old, comet Léon Marchand has already lived his first Olympics last summer, competing in the 200m butterfly, 200m medley and 400m medley.

By winning gold on this last distance in Budapest, Saturday, during the world championships, he became the second French medalist in 4 strokes in a long pool at the Worlds. What to give, already, a certain idea of ​​the extent of the performance of the young champion …

A gifted basin “made in Toulouse”

Léon Marchand made his first lengths atn the middle of the lines of the Nakache swimming pool, in Toulouse. Brought to the edge of the pools by both parents, icontinued the family tradition. Butwe want to continue on this path was, above all, his choice. “We quickly felt that Leon had aquatic abilities. But we didn’t push him to swim. It was he who decided. […] He came to it intermittently and without forcing too much, because he quickly became one of the best in his age categories.”recognized his father Xavier Marchand, converted journalist image reporter at France Télévisions, a few months ago.

Léon Marchand has forged his conviction over time, with “always this calm and reserved side but also always smiling and intelligent”, details his father. “At first I did it because you had to play sports and that was the way it was. But then I really started to like it”explained the young swimmer in July 2021 to franceinfo: sport.

Alongside the basins, the boy with a slender physique (1m83, 75kg) also found the time to pursue computer studies at the University of Toulouse-III Paul-Sabatier, after a Bac S with honors “very good” in 2020. A way to keep your feet on the ground even if rather he has them in the water most of the time.

With his Toulouse Olympique Employes Club (TOEC) coach, Nicolas Castel, his progress has been dazzling over the past two seasons. “The first big performances started to come at the French championships in 2019.” A first national title in the 200m butterfly, followed the same year by two medals at the European Junior Championships and another in bronze in the 400m medley final at the world junior championships, which made an impression in Budapest with a national record of 4’16″37. “For me, that’s where everything really changed”he acknowledges.

An express outbreak on the front of the stage

Two years later, on June 15, 2021, during the vsFrench championships in Chartres, it’s confirmation. Léon Marchand crushes the competition in the 400m medley and wins the first of his three Olympic tickets. He smashes his French record by five seconds (4’09”65) and achieved the third best world performance of the year. “I knew that if I wanted to make the qualifying time, I was going to be alonehe analyzes. So I had already mentally prepared myself to do my race and not follow the others.” This time allowed him before the Tokyo Olympics to look straight into the eyes of two current references in the discipline, the Japanese Daiya Seto and the American Chase Kalisz.

Since the end of the first confinement, Léon Marchand has been working with a specific mental trainer. “At the beginning, I had trouble managing the pressure, the challenge of competitions and also the media. It came little by little but now it’s much better than before. My goal is to detach from this challenge, from this pressure, to be at my best level in the water.”

Trained by the coach of Michael Phelps and phenomenon in the United States

After the Olympics, the young man changed his life. Léon Marchand went to try the American adventure to live your lifelong dream. “My choice to leave is very thoughtful, I have wanted to go to the United States for quite some time, in particular because my parents experienced it. […] In fact, it was when I started to get the level in 2019 that I said to myself: ‘I can have a 100% scholarship and I can go there for free for four years'”he confided, a little less than a year ago.

Several American universities are interested in him. But when the mythical Bob Bowman – ex-coach of the legend with 23 Olympic titles Michael Phelps – presented himself, the choice was made very quickly. “I received messages from coaches who offered me to come. Bob Bowman answered me very quickly, he had already watched all my races. We quickly made videos so that he could present his ideas to me. was quite a surprise coming from a guy like him. Since then we often talk to each other by text and it’s become a bit like a friend.” Direction therefore the university ofArizona State, near Phoenix.

France is discovering Léon Marchand, a swimmer likely to dominate the world.  The swimmer is only 19 years old and has been making headlines since breaking records in the United States.  A certain Michael Phelps even congratulates him on social networks.

A double swimming-study project where the character of Bob Bowman plays a central role, offering him a chance to pursue his plans in an optimal setting and achieve his short-term dreams. For his debut at the American university, the Toulousain made a strong impression by being elected “swimmer of the year”, a reward rarely granted to a first-year student.

He notably broke the record for 200 yards medley, previously held by a certain Caeleb Dressel. The 20-year-old swimmer confirmed in San Antonio (Texas), where he validated the minima for the World Championships in Budapest by winning the French record for the 200m medley.

After his title in the 400m medley, he still has two events to shine (the 200m medley and the 200m butterfly) in the Budapest basin. The Léon Marchand rocket has just taken off.

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