Leon Marchand breaks Michael Phelps’ unreachable world record

Leon Marchand Travel to the lost kingdom Michael Phelps, killed the dragon and returned with its fangs threaded like beads around its neck when this Sunday at the World Cup in Fukuoka broke the world record for the most resistant in the history of swimming in the final of the 400-meter medley. Phelps himself, who had held the record since 2002, applauded him for bringing the gold medal to the podium and raised his arm in recognition of the achievement. Marchand, pale and stunned with great happiness, had just crossed the mark from 4m 3.84 to 4m 2.50s. Marseille has never looked more arrogant.

On August 15, 2002, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Phelps created a world of his own. An ecosystem only suitable for its survival. On that day, the American swimmer began to break the world record for the 400-meter medley until he took them to a limit that seemed inaccessible to humans who did not have a fierce personality, two meters in height and two meters in wingspan, among other biological characteristics that are difficult to collect in a single organism. when At the 2008 Olympics he set his last record In the equivalent discipline of the water decathlon (4 minutes 3 seconds 84 hundredths) the test conditions became unbearable for the rest of the swimmers looking for the max. It seemed impossible to determine the successor. Found by Bob Bowman.

Bowman, who coached Phelps his entire career, lived quietly in charge of the University of Arizona’s swim team outside of Phoenix. Few corners have been more inhospitable at the American University swimming pool than in the middle of the desert. The saguaro, giant cactus, crowned the hills that surrounded Tempe, the home of the university, and gave enormous relief to the landscape in Paradise Valley, neighborhood of palaces Where Phelps settled himself with his family after leaving his highest competition. The university team was slowly thriving and Bowman was looking for strong feelings when in 2021 he discovered an unsettling talent in Toulouse: a huge breaststroke who could swim the butterfly well. hybrid. rare case. It was Marchand who accepted the invitation and made the move.

Marchand, who, at 1.83 in height, is below the competition average, had few obvious but explosive qualities. He had been living in Arizona for a year when he established himself as a double world champion in the 200- and 400-meter medley in Budapest. This Sunday in Fukuoka exceeded all expectations. Spurred on by the formidable Carson Foster, the same opponent who propelled him to gold at the 2022 World Cup, the Frenchman underwent one of the toughest transformations in living memory: The breaststroke virtuoso not only mastered the butterfly, but elevated it to the category of art. “I have to use the first part of 100 to start the test comfortably, which saves energy,” he said before traveling to Japan. “The key will be the first turn, where I have to push hard against the wall to start accelerating and gain time on the others.”

Michael was very impressed.

Marchand led the race from pole to lead via the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle sequence. He was closely teased by Foster, who swam the first 50m in 25.77 seconds, just one hundredth off his mark in Budapest and four hundredth slower than Phelps in 2008. But he turned around, pushed his legs and sprinted off. His 15m underwater swim brought him into Phelps’ world on one of his favorite terrains. When the roof broke it went off. He made the 50-meter butterfly in 28.89 seconds, a second faster than Budapest and half a second faster than Phelps at the Beijing Olympics.

Marchand improved his back muscles to shave off another second, maintain his edge in the breaststroke, and finished the 100 freestyle, his weakest stroke, with very little improvement en route to the final wall and podium finish where his neighbor in Phoenix was waiting for him. “Michael,” Marchand admitted, after the ceremony; “He told me he’s a big fan. And that he knows a trick that will help me improve my transition from breaststroke to freestyle faster.”

The record puts him through the best and worst of situations. “I will have to work mentally a lot,” he says. He is 21 years old and the Paris Games are waiting to either glorify him as a national hero or crush him under pressure.

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