When Yohann Ndoye Brouard made his senior international bow at the 2019 European Short Course Championships, he was joined on the French team by fellow newcomers that were destined to shine and a returning Olympic champion.
Since then, Ndoye Brouard has claimed four European long-course medals, including 200m backstroke gold at Roma 2022.
Among his teammates in Glasgow was fellow debutant Leon Marchand, who has gone on to win five world titles and at the Fukuoka World Championships in July set a 400m individual medley world record, eclipsing Michael Phelps’ mark that had stood since Beijing 2008.
Florent Manaudou made his return to championship racing in Glasgow after time away from the water following his 50m free silver in Rio 2016, four years after gold in London.
Casting his mind back, Ndoye Brouard told European Aquatics: “We were with (six-time world medallist) Maxime Grousset too, who had already gone to Gwangju (for the 2019 World Championships).
“So we had some young guys who were building some strength of the team and we had older people like Florent Manaudou, Melanie Henique and Charlotte Bonnet who are like the base of the pyramid.
“It’s like a growth of four years of guys who want to be the best of the Olympics, so we are pushing ourselves together to climb that pyramid.”
Also present was Jeremy Stravius, who shared top spot on the 100m backstroke podium with fellow Frenchman Camille Lacourt at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai.
“It was great,” added Ndoye Brouard. “I recall talking with Jeremy at the restaurant and it was very cool to meet some of those guys.
“I remember it was the comeback for Florent Manaudou and I was his fan because I remember seeing him winning at the Olympics, and then I make a French team with him. It was great to meet those people and talk with them about swimming and competition.”
Elbow Surgery And ‘Alien’ Marchand
In Otopeni, Ndoye Brouard will conclude a year that began with him having undergone surgery on his right elbow after he fractured it in a fall while skiing in the French Alps two days after Christmas 2022.
He said: “I fell on my wrist and on my head too, so I was a bit KO. I didn’t realise that I broke my arm, I stood up and I looked at my body and I was like ‘oh, it’s okay’.
“And then I fell again – I passed out – and then I knew it was something wrong, so I took off my jacket and saw my elbow was at a different angle.”
It required 18 stitches although he was optimistic of making a full recovery just as he did in 2019 after breaking his wrist.
Instead, the 23-year-old concentrated on land training, and Ndoye Brouard found it tough on his return to racing at the Canet stop of the Mare Nostrum in May.
Not only had he lost some cardio, he also didn’t have full mobility in his elbow and was unable to fully extend his arm.
He resolved to have the nine metal screws that were inserted following the accident removed after the World Championships.
Before then he travelled to Fukuoka and looked on as Marchand took 1.34secs off Phelps 400IM world record, lowering it to 4:02.50.
Ndoye Brouard said: “It was unbelievable. I was with my teammates at the hotel and we were seeing his race on the TV and we were crazy. He is something else – like he is an alien.
“It was very motivational to swim after this world record because he is like us, he is a human like us, and everything is possible.”
Mixed feelings at worlds before looking to Otopeni
After finishing fifth in the 100m backstroke in Fukuoka in 52.84, Ndoye Brouard then led off the French men’s medley relay that finished fourth, 0.26 off third place.
He said: “I was a bit disappointed at first with the 100 back because with my 52.50 of Budapest (2022 World Championships) I would have stood on the podium.
“But I didn’t train so much, so it was okay, and then I realised I had something to do at the Olympics because if I am fifth with an arm broken and some metal in my elbow, I think I can swim much faster.”
Ndoye Brouard will race the 100m and 200m backstroke in Otopeni before turning his focus to a home Games at Paris 2024.
He said: “It is important for us to race against those great guys in Europe, and I think it’s a good thing before Olympics to have a big championship.”
You will be able to follow all of the latest news and videos from Otopeni 2023 via the European Aquatics website and social media channels, with LIVE STREAMS available via All Aquatics.