Michael Phelps Weighs In On Talented Youth Contingent; Sees Major Breakthrough For David Popovici


Michael Phelps Weighs In On Talented Youth Contingent; Sees Major Breakthrough For David Popovici

While attending the Sports Tomorrow event in Paris, 28-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps offered commentary on two of the sport’s rising stars. And if Phelps, long known as a student of the sport, is accurate in his assessments, the future will provide some incredible fireworks.

During the event, Phelps was asked to weigh in on some of the up-and-coming talents in the pool, and the American legend lauded the talents of several youngsters. For one, Phelps discussed the skill set of Frenchman Leon Marchand, the multi-event phenom who trains under Phelps’ longtime coach, Bob Bowman, at Arizona State University.

Last summer, Marchand captured world titles in the 200 individual medley and 400 individual medley, with the longer event producing the No. 2 performance in history. When Marchand clocked 4:04.28, he finished just shy of Phelps’ world record, which has stood at 4:03.84 since the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. That Olympiad, of course, was the site of Phelps’ historic eight gold medals.

Phelps has owned the world record in the 400 medley since the summer of 2002, when he went 4:11.09 at the United States Summer Nationals at the International Swimming Hall of Fame pool in Fort Lauderdale. Although Marchand scared Phelps’ last-remaining world record over the summer, Phelps indicated a desire to maintain the standard for another year.

“He’s just a hungry little kid,” Phelps said of Marchand. “He’s eager to be the best, to break the world record, and obviously he’s within a couple of tenths. But hopefully, fingers crossed, I’m going to be greedy and try and keep the record for one more year to go to 21 years.

“He’s such a great racer. He reminds me a lot of myself with the competitiveness when you get into it, kind of dogfight in a race…I’m looking forward to seeing not only what he does at the (2023) World Championships next year, but also what he does here in Paris (at the Olympics).”

Phelps also discussed the skills of Romanian David Popovici, the 18-year-old world-record holder in the 100 freestyle, and Hungarian Kristof Milak, the Olympic champion and world-record holder in the 200 butterfly. Phelps said he believes Popovici will become the first man to break the 1:42 barrier in the 200 freestyle, which would equate to the cracking of Paul Biedermann’s super-suit record from 2009. He also lauded Milak for taking the 200 fly to iconic heights.

“I’m happy I’m not swimming the 200 fly anymore because Milak would be crushing me,” Phelps said. “Watching him go 1:50 is impressive.

“Popovici, in my opinion, he’s going to be the first person to break 1:42 (in the 200 freestyle). That’s a record that people thought was untouchable. If there’s one person on the planet who will go below, it’s Popovici. It’s just a matter of time before he swims even faster. The kid is 18.”