Toulousains of the year: Léon Marchand, the new star of French swimming

the essential
At 20, the Toulousain splashed his talent in world swimming by becoming double world champion in the 200m medley and 400m medley last summer in Budapest. Léon Marchand experienced a meteoric rise that should lead him to Olympic consecration. Less than two years from the Olympic Games, French swimming is holding its nugget.

Will he become one of the greatest French swimmers in history? Either or “THE” bigger? This is a question that has been agitating the swimming community since last June, the member of the TOEC Dolphins came to light during the world championships in Budapest (Hungary). At 20, the talented and promising Léon Marchand knocked hard on the door of the pool giants by winning two gold medals in the 200m medley and 400m medley, adding to this fine harvest a silver medal in the 200 my butterfly!

First Olympic final at 19

It was enough for French swimming to find a new smiling, pleasant, laid-back gondola head. 20 years old, fresh in his words, also mature for this young talent who quickly seduced swimming France by confiding at the end of his first world title won in the 400 medley: “I think that now I can consider myself a good swimmer. »

A good, a very good even whose limits we do not yet know, he who has experienced a meteoric rise over the past two years, both nationally and internationally. Let’s not forget that he was only 19 when he made it to the final of the 400m medley at the Tokyo Olympics in the summer of 2021 where he ranked 6th in the final. A first enriching Olympic experience which undoubtedly earned him to be even stronger a year later, in Hungary, for the world meeting. In the meantime, the legendary coach Bob Bowman who coached a certain Michael Phelps (28 Olympic medals including 23 gold!) attracted him across the Atlantic, to Phoenix, where Léon Marchand is continuing his studies on the Arizona campus. State University. The big leap, far from Nicolas Castel, his trainer for eleven years at the Dauphins du TOEC, whom he finds each time he returns to the selection. Another life, another way of training: “Over there, we are always at full speed, the training sessions are shorter but much more intense”, confides the Toulouse man who has matured with his American coach and who , because of the remoteness of his country of origin, allows him to prepare serenely, far from the media agitation which could have surrounded him by remaining in Toulouse.

The family legacy

The member of the Dolphins of the TOEC who chose to align the lengths under the green cap at the age of 12, after having first dabbled in judo and rugby, has something to hold on to. He perpetuates a firmly rooted family tradition with international parents: Xavier Marchand (1998 vice-world champion in the 200m medley, Olympic finalist in Sydney in 2000) and Céline Bonnet (multiple French champion, selected for the 1992 Olympics) , not to mention uncle Christophe Marchand, also an international (he competed in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics). A motivating but not oppressive environment. “My parents have always been aware of the difficulty of this sport, of all the sacrifices it requires and that’s probably why they didn’t really want to force me to follow the same path”, admits he. But Léon’s determination, his talent, his desire, the pleasure he takes in swimming did the rest. The know-how of the Dauphins du TOEC also where we know how to train, reveal and support swimmers at the highest level for decades.

He demonstrated in Budapest that he was of the caliber of the greatest. His way of approaching the finals, his serenity especially on the plot, marked opponents and observers. Bob Bowman, who has seen others, is admiring: “He is unpredictable. We do not know what its limits will be. And that’s what makes her future even more exciting!

In a few dates

2002: birth in Toulouse on May 17.
2019: he won his first Elite title at the French championships held in Rennes in the 200m butterfly. During the following summer, he won the bronze medal in the 200m breaststroke and 400m medley at the Euro juniors, then the bronze in the 400m medley at the Junior Worlds, a French record!
2020: he won two new national titles in the 200m medley and 200m butterfly.
2021: triple French champion (200m butterfly, 200m medley, 400m medley) and Olympic finalist in the 400m medley (6th).
2022: world champion in the 200m medley and 400m medley, European record (4’04”28, 2nd world performance of all time), vice-world champion in the 200m butterfly.


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