Swimming: Merchant in paradise, the Blues see triple
Léon Marchand is having a dream week. After a first coronation on Saturday and a silver medal on Tuesday, the new phenomenon of French swimming won a second title on Wednesday at the World Championships in Budapest, winning gold in the 200m medley.
No doubt driven by the crazy dynamic triggered by Marchand on the first day of the Worlds, two other Blues climbed to a podium on Wednesday: Maxime Grousset, silver medalist in the 100m freestyle, and Analia Pigrée, in bronze in the 50m back.
Three medals in one evening is a first for France at the Worlds, and as Marchand pointed out, “it’s already better than the Tokyo Olympics”, from where the Blues had only returned from a week of competition with only one distinction (Florent Manaudou’s silver in the 50m freestyle).
In the Hungarian capital, Marchand has not ceased to be amazing. “Since Saturday, I wake up, I’m in heaven. I’m so happy to be here,” he said with his smiling face. “Unfortunately it was the last individual race, I hope I will do 2-3 stints but frankly it was a great week. I’m super happy with myself”, he continued, punctuating as always his remarks with a jovial little laugh.
In the Duna Arena in Budapest, he had already made the Marseillaise sound during the 400m medley before winning silver in the 200m butterfly on Tuesday.
– “That’s pretty cool!” –
The 20-year-old, who trains with Bob Bowman, former coach of legend Michael Phelps, is now the third French swimmer to have won two individual world titles in the same year after Laure Manaudou in Melbourne (2007) and Florent Manaudou (2015) in Kazan.
In the final of the 200m medley, he showed his power in the second part of the race, taking the lead after the breaststroke, a position he never left, despite the return of the American Carson Foster in the fourth. and last length, in crawl.
He beat the American Carson Foster and the Japanese Daiya Seto and took the opportunity to break the French record, which he had already improved the day before (1 min 55.75).
The Toulousain also won the race which had seen his father Xavier win the silver medal at the 98 Worlds in Perth, Australia. “He is vice-world champion in 98, I am world champion in 2022”, remarked Léon. “That’s pretty cool, I beat him this time!”
Three quarters of an hour earlier, Maxime Grousset, French revelation of the Tokyo Olympics last summer thanks to his fourth place in the 100m freestyle final, had won silver in the queen race.
The New Caledonian was only beaten by the 17-year-old Romanian teenager David Popovici, the other sensation of these Hungarian Worlds.
“Next time I will beat him,” promised Grousset. “I’m really very, very happy with the race I did, I think I can do a little bit better, I loosened up in some parts.”
– Pigrée: “The beginning of my career” –
Even if the three medalists on the Tokyo podium were absent, Caeleb Dressel in the lead, forfeited for “medical reasons”, this medal is a “validation” for the 23-year-old swimmer. “It’s my first individual podium, I can only be happy and want to do better.”
Analia Pigrée came to complete the blue triple of the day by winning bronze in the 50m backstroke. “Finishing third is exceptional for my first World Championships so I am very happy and very proud of myself”, reacted Pigrée, whose preparation was disrupted by a shoulder injury contracted at the start of the year.
“I hope my parents are proud of me because they have sacrificed a lot,” added the 20-year-old Guyanese, who came to mainland France at the age of 15 to train in Font-Romeu.
This medal represents “the beginning of my career”, she said.
For the French team, already rewarded with six medals in these World Championships, it may also be the beginning of a renaissance two years from the Paris Olympics.