“At the moment, Léon Marchand is training better than ever,” according to Bob Bowman, his coach

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The American Bob Bowman, coach of Léon Marchand, during the world championships in Fukuoka (Japan), July 30, 2023. PHILIP FONG / AFP

After the collective fever, the cold shower. On March 30, Léon Marchand, best swimmer in the finals of the American university championships, celebrated with his teammates the first NCAA coronation in the history of Arizona State. “I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything so intense”, declared the 21-year-old Frenchman enthusiastically. For the occasion, Bob Bowman, their coach, took a little dive into the pit natatorium from Indiana University, Indianapolis. Two days later, the American announced to his swimmers that he was named director of the University of Texas in Austin. A new challenge, at 59, for the former mentor of Michael Phelps and, indirectly, for Léon Marchand, a few months before the Olympic Games.

Why did you decide to leave Arizona State and join the University of Texas?

For nine years I had a wonderful time at Arizona State. We built a program at a very high level and I felt like I had accomplished everything I could do there. When you look at my career, I often stay in the same place for eight or nine years [il a notamment entraîné à Baltimore entre 1996 et 2005 puis entre 2008 et 2015]. I needed a new challenge.

Read also | Article reserved for our subscribers Four months before the Paris 2024 Olympics, all the lights are green for “the king of swimming” Léon Marchand

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Texas is a completely different one, because unlike Arizona State, it’s a very established and successful university. Succeeding Eddie Reese [l’entraîneur, parti à la retraite à 82 ans, qui a conduit les Texas Longhorns à quinze titres NCAA] and trying to build on this legacy represents a huge challenge.

It’s also a fabulous place to work, with some of the best facilities and resources in the world. I said to myself that, for once in my career, which is nearing the end, it would be nice to coach in such an environment without having to fight. Everything is already in place.

Your swimmers must have had a bit of a shock hearing the news so suddenly…

Yes, indeed, and that worried me. I’ve known about it for a while, maybe six weeks. My biggest worry was how quickly things would move forward. But, looking back, I tell myself that it was the best way to proceed.

Léon Marchand had to move overnight to Texas, take care of administrative details to be able to follow you and leave the Tempe campus, his cocoon since August 2021. Did this disturb him?

Also read the interview with Bob Bowman (2023): Article reserved for our subscribers Bob Bowman, coach of Léon Marchand: “I know what the Paris 2024 Games will look like for him, and I am extremely confident”

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No, he did a pretty good job there. And right now he’s training better than I’ve ever seen him train [ils sont actuellement en stage de cinq semaines en altitude à Colorado Springs]. He is someone who adapts easily. In that, he looks a lot like Michael [Phelps]. And I also think that this new stimulus is good for him: he has a new environment, a new swimming pool, and has kept many training partners. Most of Arizona State’s professional swimmers in fact: there are seven of them. Leon simply does the same things, but in a new setting.

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