Paris 2024: the program of swimming events modified to take into account versatility Léon Marchand

This is what we call a rich man's problem

Paris 2024: the program of swimming events modified to take into account versatility Léon Marchand

This is what we call a rich man's problem. Triple reigning world champion in the 400m medley, 200m medley and 200m butterfly, Léon Marchand will be one of the most anticipated French athletes at the Paris Olympic Games (July 26 to August 11). However, in recent months, the swimmer posed an unprecedented headache for the International Swimming Federation (World Aquatics) because his versatility clashed with the initial calendar of swimming events.

If he qualifies for the Olympic high mass during the French championships in Chartres (June 16 to 21), the Toulouse native should, as usual, launch the French team with his favorite race, the 400m 4 swimming (for which he holds the world record), on Sunday July 28. He has also had Thursday, August 1, the day of the 200m medley heats and semi-finals, as well as Friday, August 2 (final) marked on his calendar for a long time.

Just a few days ago, another difficulty was added to his very busy schedule: Tuesday July 30 was to see the series of 200m breaststroke and 200m butterfly in the morning... then in the evening the semi-finals of the two tests. With both finals scheduled for July 31, approximately fifteen minutes apart. An almost impossible mission even when your name is Léon Marchand, who risked jeopardizing his chances in both races or having to favor one.

“We all got involved, even Bowman.”

The French Swimming Federation (FFN) took matters into its own hands by exposing the problem to World Aquatics even before the World Championships were held in Fukuoka, Japan, in the summer of 2023. “We asked that one of the two events are scheduled at the start of the session and the other towards the end, explains the national technical director (DTN), Julien Issoulié. We all got involved, Bowman [Marchand's American coach] had the same discussion as us with World Aquatics. »

“The International Federation had never encountered this problem because until now, no very high level swimmer had done the 200m breaststroke and the 200m butterfly,” continues Julien Issoulié. They thought about it within the technical committee, we did everything to make them aware that it would be good to postpone the tests. »

The message has been heard. The DTN received the good news from Cojo – the organizing committee which officially validates the program for the Games – on February 7. On July 30, the 200m butterfly and 200m breaststroke will be contested approximately an hour apart. One of the semi-finals will be scheduled around 8:40 p.m. and the other around 9:40 p.m. “We have optimized the program, if that makes it so much the better. He may not win everything, but if he manages to get two medals in these two races, it will still be exceptional,” insists the DTN.

The planets are now aligned. Will Léon Marchand compete in both events with certainty? Co-trainer of the Frenchman with Bob Bowman, Nicolas Castel prefers to keep the suspense: “Indeed, it could change the situation but for the moment, we are keeping this question in suspense,” he eludes, playing it safe on the final programming of her foal. We know very well how it happens: if we say that he is doing four [individual] races and ultimately we do not line him up for one of them, we will hear “Léon is not doing well”. The strategy is for him to be qualified everywhere, but we leave ourselves the choice until the last moment. »

Over the ten days of competition, Léon Marchand could also take part in relays. Small problem: the 4 × 200 m freestyle in which he took part in Fukuoka (France finished at the foot of the podium) is scheduled for July 30... in the wake of the 200 m breaststroke. With the locomotive of the French swimming team, one problem can hide another.