ARIZONA STATE

‘He has it all really:’ Ex-ASU swimmer Leon Marchand gearing up for Paris Olympics

Jul 8, 2024, 6:59 PM

Leon Marchand swims...

Leon Marchand competes in the Men's 400m Individual Medley prelims on Day 3 of the TYR Pro Swim Series San Antonio at Northside Swim Center on April 12, 2024 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Most of the big stars from the last Olympics will be back at the pool in Paris.

Caeleb Dressel. Katie Ledecky. Ariarne Titmus. Emma McKeon.

But the local favorite might just shine brightest of them all.

France’s Léon Marchand has drawn comparisons to the great Michael Phelps, a link that was only strengthened by Phelps’ longtime coach, Bob Bowman, overseeing the 22-year-old’s rise to prominence.

At last summer’s world championships in Fukuoka, Marchand broke Phelps’ 15-year-old world record in the 400-meter individual medley, to go along with victories in the 200 IM and 200 butterfly — two more of Phelps’ signature events.

“Leon has several things that make him a great,” Bowman said. “He has speed and he has endurance. So he kind of has the whole package that you want, and so far he’s done well under pressure, which is the other piece of that equation. He has it all really.”

Marchand will also have the home-pool advantage in Paris, where the swimming will be contested in a temporary facility set up inside the La Défense Arena, the 30,000-seat home of the rugby club Racing 92.

The place figures to be especially loud every time Marchand steps up on the blocks.

“I get to swim the (400) IM against the world record holder in his home country,” said Carson Foster, the top American hopeful. “That atmosphere is going to be electric.”

Marchand, who swam for Bowman at Arizona State, competed in four events at the Tokyo Games, with a best showing of sixth in the 400 individual medley.

But he emerged as one of the sport’s rising stars at the 2022 world championships in Budapest, and his performance the following year in Fukuoka only raised the stakes heading into his home-country Olympics.

“When I came back from Tokyo, I was like, ‘Damn, this is like a game-changer. Now I can actually beat those guys pretty soon,’” Marchand said. ”I know I can train better. I know I can improve this.”

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‘He has it all really:’ Ex-ASU swimmer Leon Marchand gearing up for Paris Olympics