Swimming: Léon Marchand, like a fish in water before Paris 2024

Léon Marchand, who will be at the World Championships in Fukuoka (Japan), from July 23 to 30, 2023, the highlight of the season, shone at the France championships with 5 titles. But the French swimmer is especially programmed to shine at Paris 2024, the major event of his young career.

Frenchman Léon Marchand was crowned world champion in the 200m individual medley on Wednesday in Budapest, June 22, 2022. AFP - ATTILA KISBENEDEK

Text by: Farid Achache Follow


Read more

Two years before the Olympic Games in Paris, French swimming had its eyes riveted on a 20-year-old kid, twice titled at the World Championships in Budapest. In Hungary, Léon Marchand won the first world title of his career in the final of the 400m individual medley. "I think now I can call myself a good swimmer," said the man who set six France records in eight races. He also won the 200m individual medley and won a silver medal in the 200m butterfly.

French swimming holds a new phenomenon

After his 6th place in the final of the 400m individual medley at the Tokyo Games in August 2021, and at only 19 years old, Léon Marchand had made the decision to leave Toulouse for Arizona and the city of Phoenix where he intended to continue his progression under the orders of Bob Bowman, former mentor of a certain Michael Phelps, American legend of the pools with his 28 Olympic medals, including 23 gold. A choice that pays off.

With Léon Marchand, French swimming holds a new phenomenon, announced as the star of the Paris 2024 Olympics. During the France championships from June 11 to 16, the young man aroused the admiration of the public, but also of other swimmers who hope to take advantage of his wave one year before the Olympics at home. "It pulls us towards the haut," says Damien Joly, a long-distance specialist.

Interviewed before the start of the competition, Florent Manaudou, captain of Les Bleus, expected his side "to see an exceptional swimmer swim". "He took meat, it's cool," he smiled as he recalled the Frenchman's physical transformation since training in the United States. Marchand won five France championship titles in 2023: 200m breaststroke, 200m freestyle, 200m butterfly, 200m medley and 400m individual medley.

The Marchand clan hopes in any case that the Leon effect can give a new impetus to the French relay, which has been struggling for a few years. "We want him to do (the 4x200m relay)," said Bob Bowman, who has been coaching the Frenchman for two years now. "We want him to swim races where he can win medals and that's a good chance for the France. The others have to accelerate a little, but they will, and then they will all be faster, "promises the American coach.

It must be said that in the Marchand family, sport goes beyond passion, it is a religion. His parents are former Olympic swimmers. His father, Xavier Marchand, was vice-world champion in the 400m individual medley in 1998, and his mother, Céline Bonnet, a multiple France champion and participant in the 1992 Olympic Games (not to mention his uncle Christophe Marchand, who took part in the 1988 and 1992 Games).

"On is all concerned, even his little brother, Oscar.



With mine, we love it. We look at the records, it's family, "he assured in the columns of Liberation. "We absorb everything that happens, we talk about it," continues Céline Bonnet, his mother, who became a flight attendant. We know his competitors for Paris, we are all concerned, even his little brother, Oscar."

His parents, who had an American experience at the end of their career, in Alabama, encouraged him to pack his bags and live his dreams. "I escaped a bit, I had to learn to live on my own. There, people believe in their dreams, we have the right to say: "I want to be world champion". Here, we will think: "He is a little pretentious when he finished 6th [at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, editor's note]." In the United States, athletes say it, it does not matter, even if they fail, "confirms the prodigy son. Tall blond with blue eyes, Léon Marchand has everything to become the French swimmer who will mark the history of Paris 2024.

Newsletter Receive all the international news directly in your mailbox

I subscribe

Follow all the international news by downloading the RFI application


Read on on the same topics:

  • Swimming
  • France
  • Olympics 2024