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MAINTENANCE. Léon Marchand: “Life in the United States is like in the movies!” The Toulouse swimmer confides before the start of the Worlds

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The native of Toulouse is back from his American year on the occasion of the world championships, which are held in Budapest from this Saturday, June 18. At 20, he is aiming for a first world medal there. For The Midi Dispatchhe tells his life on the side of the United States, in the basins but not only…

Léon Marchand, how are you enjoying your return to France?

Pretty good (smiles). I arrived in Toulouse on Friday June 3, I rested for a day then I went straight to Canet-en-Roussillon, to the France team training camp. I haven’t really cut, I swim every day.

Between the trip and the long season, does fatigue make itself felt?

Yes, I was a little tired last weekend, there was the jet lag on top of that, but it’s much better. I did three weeks at altitude with my coach, so in the water I feel great.

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A course at altitude like cyclists do?

Yes exactly, it helps to increase the number of red blood cells. When we go back down to the plain, we are supposed to feel better.

Find the friends of the Dauphins du Toec and the French team, it should also make you happy…

It’s certain. Already it speaks a little more in French (laughs). And then I discover new faces because there are other swimmers who entered the French team so it’s rather nice.

What is your assessment of your first year in the United States?

The first assessment is very positive. I learned a lot of stuff mentally, physically, on autonomy but also quite simply to swim faster. I think I did a good job, I feel stronger than last year. And I also improved physically with bodybuilding. In terms of results, I wasn’t expecting much, I had nothing to lose. And in the end I really had fun in the water and the results are very positive, I did times that I didn’t expect to do.

Have you noticed any differences between French and American training methods?

Yes, there are differences. Already at the level of the environment. I lived on campus with other swimmers, we went to watch football matches for example… In fact, the whole university lives sport to the fullest, it’s different from here. The infrastructure is impressive too. Then at the level of the pure athlete, there is less training per week, it’s more balanced with the lessons, but it’s much more intensive. When you do two hours of training, you take a one-minute break and that’s it. Cardio level I really improved.

“In 2019, when I started to get results, I had a little trouble dealing with the pressure. Today it’s much better”

How is the agreement with your trainer Bob Bowman going?

It’s going really well. He was with me in Canet during the course, he may be there during the world championships. He is a coach like the others but he has a lot of experience, so everything we do in training is very interesting. And humanly it’s like a friend, we talk a lot, etc. There is a small connection that has been created.

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And the atmosphere and the fervor during the university competitions, did that surprise you?

No, that’s also why I went to the United States. I lived my first finals and it was really very intense. You have to swim very quickly in the morning because the level is very high, there is a lot of atmosphere because you are playing for the team. It’s a bit like a team sport, there is a different motivation suddenly. And when you’re at the edge of the pool, you’re bound to be at full speed when there’s a swimmer from your team swimming. It’s really the kiff. You have the impression of being really supported and that everyone is pulling in the same direction. The environment that is created thanks to these campuses and this system, it allows you to transcend yourself.

What are your goals for the world championships?

I train every day to make a medal at the world championships and at the Olympic Games. So my goal is always to finish in the top 3. But whether it’s this year or in a year, we’ll see D-Day because I can’t predict what can happen. I’m going to let go and do it step by step. Already qualify for the final with a good time and the rest we will see. We will be ready with my coaches Nicolas Castel and Bob Bowman.

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Thanks to your results, you have become one of the headliners of French swimming. Does it add extra pressure or do you ignore it?

Yes, there is pressure but I try to keep the positive side. Knowing that I am being watched is still gratifying. There is also stress, but I have had a mental trainer for a year and we are really working on that. This is important in view of Paris-2024. We are preparing for it every day and for the moment I find that I manage rather well, whether it is the solicitations of the media or others. I am focused on myself and my attention does not get lost in what is happening around me. I use stress in a positive way.

Have you been able to discuss with great French swimmers on the management of this pressure?

I discussed it with some swimmers but the biggest work is done with my mental trainer who worked with Florent Manaudou. He also had to deal with pressure so I learn with this circle of swimmers who have experienced that and know how it goes. In 2019 when I started to get results, I had a little trouble dealing with it all, but today it’s much better.

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On a personal level, how was your year in the United States?

I loved. The swimmers I met are not necessarily Americans, they come from all over the world: English, Irish, Spaniards, Australians… It’s really a mix of cultures and we find ourselves in the same place to swim and for lessons. And we see each other in everyday life, it’s very nice. Then American life is a bit like in the movies. We go to football matches, we eat burgers (he laughs). I loved this system, it was my routine and it was cool. It’s really a cliché, with the Cheerleaders, the full basketball games as if they were pros… I’m really happy to live that.

Are you recognized when you walk around campus?

No, no, there are too many of us. The campus is huge, there are 75,000 students there. But maybe in four years I will be recognized (smile).

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VIDEO. Swimming: Toulouse’s Léon Marchand wins the American university title over 200 yards medley in record time

What is your plan for next year, are you staying in Arizona?

Yes, I’m going to go back because the course of my studies in computer science (programming, editor’s note) lasts four years. The start of the school year is in mid-August and I will be there.

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“Léon Marchand may be one of the bosses of these Worlds”

Three years after the last world championships which took place in South Korea near Gwangju, there are three swimmers from the Dauphins du Toec to go to Budapest on Friday: Adèle Blanchetière, Antoine Viquerat and Léon Marchand (photo DR). With what objectives? Among the men, Antoine Viquerat, who will start in the 200m breaststroke, “will aim for at least a semi-final” confides Michel Coloma, the sports director of the Dauphins. “He’s used to this kind of competition, Antoine had some preparation problems because of his exams, but he’s coming back well” he continues.

For Léon Marchand, the situation is different. After winning a junior bronze medal in Budapest in 2019 and the title of French champion last year, he wants to hit hard in the big leagues. “Secretly, we are hoping for a medal”, admits Michel Coloma, before continuing: “He is in very good shape. Léon sees further than a final. He is still young, but since the Games and his 6th place, he has more worked and progressed. Léon can be one of the bosses of these Worlds, that’s for sure.”

“The waking dream” by Adele Blanchetière

Finally, Adèle Blanchetière – the last arrival at the club – will seek “a semi-final even if we must not kid ourselves, it will be very tough” admits her sports director. But “Adèle has her head on her shoulders, after her title in the French championship, she did not get carried away. She is living a daydream and is going to Budapest to seek training at the very highest level.”

At the same time as her elders, the young Madelon Catteau, recent European junior champion over 10km in open water in Portugal, will also be traveling to Hungary to take part in the junior world championships.




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