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2022 News Slider Swimming World Events

Marchand brings down Cseh’s 14 years old ER in the 400m IM

The opening day of the swimming meet at the FINA World Championships in Budapest brought a truly outstanding performance from France’s Leon Marchand who managed to better Laszlo Cseh’s mighty 14 years old European record while winning the 400m IM. Marchand, whose father had claimed France’s only IM medal at the Worlds beforehand, back in 1998, almost downed Michael Phelps’ WR as well.

Finally, a major swim meet in front of thousands – both the Europeans and the Olympics, as well as the season-ending short-course Worlds were held in front of empty stands last year, due to the pandemic – and the Budapest crowd went wild even if not a Hungarian chased the top spot in the 400m IM (which had been a usual scene in the past decades). The roar was understandable as Frenchman Leon Marchand was on verge to bring down Michael Phelps’ seemingly untouchable world record from 2008.

The red line only ’escaped’ him over the last metres, though add that the 23-times Olympic champion American wore a shiny suit when he clocked that 4:03.84 at the Beijing Olympics. Back then Hungary’s medley king Laszlo Cseh came second and set a new European record with 4:06.16. It stood firmly ever since – up until this opening day in Budapest.

Leon Marchand was simply out of reach for his US rivals and basically crashed Cseh’s 14-year-old mark with an astonishing time of 4:04.28, shaving off almost two full seconds. It was just 0.44sec shy of Phelps’ best-ever effort and the second-best ever in history – and the best swim in a textile suit (Phelps’ top in textile was 4:06.26 in 2007).

Well, if you ask where this 20-years old French was before – the answer is: he has been around. What changed recently that he moved to the US and now coached by – Bob Bowman. The man who led Michael Phelps to the highest heights. This makes his brilliant progress so much understandable.

“I felt really great in the morning and had the very same feeling this afternoon as well” Marchand said. “I’m really enjoying this pool, it’s so fast and I’m happy to swim a personal best and it’s amazing that it is a Championship Record too. Five years ago, I was watching these championships from home on TV and now I’m here in Budapest and won the 400m IM – everything just happened so quickly. I’m yet to realise what’s just happened to me here.”

OK, let’s stop here a bit. A Frenchman excelling in individual medley? We saw great sprinters in free, fly and back among the men, we saw brilliant female middle distance swimmers – but they barely had an impact on the IM field.

Their only World Championships medal in the men’s IM competition came in Perth 1998. A certain Xavier Marchand clinched silver a quarter of a century ago. Indeed, Leon’s father. Now the son outshone his dad’s achievement – and he did it in style.

As for the other Europeans making a splash this evening, Germany’s Lukas Martens kicked off the party with a fine silver medal in the men’s 400m free. “I really can’t describe this feeling! I came here to reach the finals and in the end I managed to get the second place. The time is really good, I try to keep up with the Australian guy but over the final lap he swam away” Martens referred to Aussie winner Elijah Winnington.

The Italian torpedos had another blast to claim the bronze in the men’s 4x100m free relay to complete a fine collection of medals for the European swimmers (a gold, a silver and a bronze) for this opening session. The women had two finals, European ladies were far from the podium – we hope the meet will have more for them in the next days (though let’s remember of Tokyo where the Old Continent’s female swimmers could claim only four medals in total, none of them was gold).

In the first final of the artistic swimming competition, Ukraine’s outstanding soloist Marta Fiedina finished second while Greece’s Evangelia Platanioti earned a historical first-ever World Championship medal for her country.

Despite everything she and her country has been going through since February, Fiedina came up with her best to finish runner-up. “For me, it was very important to win this medal as I want the people know all around the world that Ukraine is strong. I won this medal for my country. I am really happy to be able to represent and build the legacy of my country” she said.

Platanioti jumped out of her skin in happiness:

“It is a dream come true to stand on the podium at a World Championships. All my focus was on this event in this year, and I had the right mentality to fight for this medal. What I am the proudest of is that I use my own choreography and I like the elements. I loved the fans and everything around me and that helped me to perform better.”

Photo: Simone Castrovillari/LEN