Leon Marchand Posts Sizzling 100 Breast-200 IM Double at Speedo Grand Challenge; Regan Smith, Paige Madden Shine

Leon Marchand -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Leon Marchand Posts Sizzling 100 Breast-200 IM Double at Speedo Grand Challenge

Members of the professional group under the guidance of Bob Bowman are competing this week at the Speedo Grand Challenge in Irvine, Calif., providing a last testing ground for the likes of Regan SmithSimone ManuelPaige Madden and Drew Kibler prior to the U.S. Olympic Trials, which begin in three weeks. But the biggest star in that squad is Frenchman Leon Marchand, and as per usual, Marchand stole the show Friday evening with a superb double.

First, Marchand topped the 100 breaststroke in 59.06, a mark believed to be his first under 1:00 in the event after entering with a seed time of 1:01.02 and then going 1:00.62 in prelims. Previously, Marchand split 59.00 on France’s 400 medley relay at last year’s World Championships, and he is likely to reprise that role at this year’s Paris Olympics, with the French team aiming for a medal after missing the podium by just three tenths last year.

Marchand’s breaststroke time ranks him sixth in the world for 2024 (although he is unlikely to race the event individually at the Olympics) while his mark in the 200 IM, held less than 20 minutes later, moved him to the top of the global standings. Marchand clocked 1:55.74, less than a second behind his European record of 1:54.82 and ahead of Duncan Scott’s previous top mark of 1:55.91. In Irvine, Marchand was followed a pair of his training partners who are also elite international performers, the United States’ Chase Kalisz (1:58.76) and Hungary’s Hubert Kos (1:59.83).

Marchand, who turned 22 last week, is expected to star at the Olympic Games held in his home country this summer. He recently finished off his college career at Arizona State with a third consecutive dominant NCAA Championships and a team title, and he will be favored for Olympic gold medals in both individual medley events along with the 200 butterfly.

Madden, meanwhile, swam a lifetime best by almost a second in the women’s 400 freestyle, winning the event in 4:03.02. Her previous top mark had been a 4:03.98 in prelims at the Tokyo Olympics to qualify for the final, and three years later, Madden has eclipsed that mark as she prepares to aim for a spot on her second Olympic team. With the swim, Madden jumped into the global top-10 in the event for 2024. She was followed in Irvine by Sandpipers of Nevada teammates Katie Grimes (4:08.21) and Claire Weinstein (4:14.82).

Smith shined in the women’s 200 IM as she clocked 2:09.05, a little over a half-second off her best time of 2:08.48. She ended up just outside the global top-10 in the event, although Kate DouglassAlex Walsh and Torri Huske all have faster times this year among Americans. Smith is a question-mark for the shorter medley at the Olympic Trials as she figures to concentrate on the 100 and 200 backstroke plus the 200 butterfly. Also making a rare 200 IM appearance was Grimes, a distance freestyle and 400 IM standout, who placed second in 2:13.35.

Kibler topped the men’s 200 free in 1:47.02, just clear of the identical marks of 1:47.10 posted by top domestic rivals Kieran Smith and Carson Foster during their final Trials tune-up swims last week. Former Air Force Academy swimmer Wen Zhang came in second at 1:48.52.

Manuel got the win in the women’s 50 free in 24.69, a few tenths shy of her season-best effort of 24.34, while Michael Andrew claimed the top spot in the men’s 50 free in 22.11, with Justin Ress (22.37) coming in second.

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9 days ago

While I certainly hope that Aussie ZSC wins the 200m Breastroke I definitely wouldn’t begrude Marchand not only that race but the 200m Butterfly as well as the expected IM’s. It woukd be unbelievable and can you imagine the deservedly joyous French reaction!

Honest swim fan
Honest swim fan
9 days ago

As long as you are mentioning the 200 frees of Kieren and Carson, both slightly slower than Kibler, it would seem only fair to mention another time from the same weekend which matched Kibler to the hundredth: Blake Pieroni 1:47.02.

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