French swimmer Marchand sees Paris 2024 Olympics as golden ‘opportunity’

French swimmer Leon Marchand, who broke Michael Phelps’ 400m medley world record last year, believes the stars are aligned for him to peak at his home Olympics in Paris this summer.

Published : Mar 17, 2024 20:34 IST , Paris - 3 MINS READ

France’s Leon Marchand.
France’s Leon Marchand. | Photo Credit: AFP

France’s Leon Marchand. | Photo Credit: AFP

French swimmer Leon Marchand, who broke Michael Phelps’ 400m medley world record last year, believes the stars are aligned for him to peak at his home Olympics in Paris this summer.

“I’m 21 years old, I’m reaching my peak in my sport and the Games are at home. What more could you ask for?” Marchand said in an interview with French media including AFP.

The five-time world champion, who trains in the United States with Phelps’ former coach Bob Bowman, has been tipped as one of the big stars of the Paris Games as he chases his first Olympic medals in front of his home crowd.

“I’m preparing myself mentally and physically for that,” said Marchand whose father Xavier was a former swimming world silver medallist and Olympian, and mother, Celine Bonnet a French record-holder.

Marchand starred at the world championships in Fukuoka last year, winning three gold medals and breaking Phelps’ long-standing 400m individual medley world record.

He also won two world titles in the 200m and 400m individual medley at the 2022 world championships in Budapest.

“I understood it when I beat Michael (Phelps’) record. Immediately in my head I said to myself: ‘Well, the Paris Games, it’s going to be different from what I had imagined!

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“So I prepare for it every day with my mental coach. We prepare for everything that will be around me during the two weeks which are going to be quite intense.

“It’s a new challenge, but above all it’s an opportunity.

“I’m not going to complain, I’m going to prepare as much as possible and I’m going to enjoy.”

A student at Arizona State University, Marchand has been following Games’ preparations from afar.

“The Arena, I’ve never been there but I’ve seen quite a few pictures. I know that there will be a huge screen, I know how the swimming pool will be positioned.

“And I had my cousin who worked in the building and who was on the swimming pool project, so it was funny he sent me videos.

“I try to imagine things but I’m still so far away that it’s not easy. But it’s good, it’ll remain a bit of a surprise and I’ll be happy to find out when I’m there.”

More experience

Despite the weight of expectation, Marchand insisted: “I’m not afraid of all that. I’m excited to return to France and prepare for the Games. I’ll see my family again and spend time with them.

“Obviously I have a little more experience so I will manage things better.

“I’ll try to be a little more open in terms of meeting people, signing autographs and sharing a bit more,” continued Marchand, who found the national championships energy-sapping.

“It’s true that the French Championships are not easy for me because it’s no longer like before,” continued the swimmer from Toulouse.

“Before, I was unknown, I did my races, my finals and went home. Now it’s not the same thing.

“I preferred before when I was unknown, because what I really like is swimming fast and having fun in the water.

“Now, it’s something that I have to accept. I don’t complain about it because that’s what I wanted too. Last year it was surprising for me and this year it will be much better.

“You have to remind yourself how good it is to see people smiling, waiting for you when you come out of the pool, everyone encouraging you.

“It’s still rare in this sport. So that’s why I want to enjoy it even more.”

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