Michael Phelps: How Leon Marchand Can Break 4:00 in the 400 Individual Medley


27 July 2023, 02:40am

Michael Phelps: How Leon Marchand Can Break 4:00 in the 400 Individual Medley

It’s been several days since Leon Marchand wowed the sport with an almost unfathomable world record in the 400-meter individual medley. The Frenchman’s time of 4:02.50 required digesting, as it wiped more than a second off the nearly 15-year-old standard of Michael Phelps, who went 4:03.84 in his opening event of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Phelps has been in attendance at Marine Messe Hall throughout the competition and called Marchand’s race as part of NBC Sports’ coverage. The record was the last owned by Phelps, who cheered on Marchand and applauded his performance. But the 28-time Olympic medalist thinks there is more to come from the French 21-year-old, including a run at the four-minute barrier in the event.

Erik Vendt and I talked a lot about going under four minutes in the 400 IM,” Phelps said in an exclusive interview with Swimming World. “(Marchand) going 4:02, there’s a possibility. He’s got to use his underwaters as much as he can. That’s a big strength. We saw it on the last wall (of the 400 IM).”

Former swimmer Michael Phelps greets Leon Marchand of Franceat the end of the 400m Individual Medley Men Final during the 20th World Aquatics Championships at the Marine Messe Hall A in Fukuoka (Japan), July 23rd, 2023. Leon Marchand placed first winning the gold medal with a new world record.

In his record-breaking outing, Marchand opened with a butterfly leg of 54.66 and followed with a backstroke split of 1:01.98. He then delivered a game-changing split of 1:07.64 on breaststroke, a time that put Marchand nearly three seconds clear of Phelps’ record pace. A freestyle split of 58.22 capped Marchand’s global mark.

Always a student of the sport, Phelps has already analyzed what it will take for Marchand to go sub-4:00, which would be an iconic showing – not that his swim earlier in the week wasn’t. Phelps, along with coach Bob Bowman, were never satisfied, and always sought improvements wherever they could be attained. With Bowman coaching Marchand, surely the master coach cannot wait to get back to work.

Phelps has ideas of what needs to happen.

“I think his backstroke has to be closer to a minute, but he has to be able to do it with no kick,” Phelps said, noting Marchand’s need to preserve his legs. “He’s got to be able to do it with all tempo and arms. And he has to finish (on the freestyle leg) in 56. Period. We always said you finish in what you go out in. I was out in 54 and I was back in 55. If he can get to that, there’s no doubt in my mind that he can break four minutes.”

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