World Championships: Leon Marchand Holds Off Carson Foster for 200 IM Title, Second Gold Medal This Week

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Leon Marchand -- Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

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World Championships: Leon Marchand Holds Off Carson Foster for 200 IM Title, Second Gold Medal This Week

The title of world’s best medley swimmer officially belongs to France’s Leon Marchand. On the opening day of the World Championships, the 20-year-old who trains under coach Bob Bowman at Arizona State University was dominant in the men’s 400 IM as he opened up a big lead in breaststroke and threatened Michael Phelps’ 14-year-old world record in the event. Marchand ended up with the second-fastest time in history in that event, and after he added a silver medal in the 200 butterfly Tuesday, he was deemed an enormous favorite entering the 200 IM final.

But after a 2.28-second victory in the 200 IM, this one was not smooth sailing for Marchand. Instead, American Carson Foster went out ahead of the field on the butterfly and backstroke legs with the quickest split in the field on both legs. But on the breaststroke, Marchand showed off absolute mastery as he overtook and sailed past Foster. His split of 33.01 was second-best in the field (just behind Chase Kalisz’s 32.86) and more than a second ahead of Foster, and Marchand then fought off the American on the final leg.

Marchand touched in 1:55.22, while Foster earned the silver medal in 1:55.71. Marchand’s performance made him the sixth-fastest performer of all-time, and he trails only Ryan LochteMichael PhelpsWang ShunKosuke Hagino and Laszlo Cseh. After finishing sixth in the 400 IM and 18th in the 200 IM at the Tokyo Games, Marchand has exploded during his first season training in Arizona. At the NCAA Championships, Marchand crushed the all-time record in the 200-yard IM and also won the 200-yard breaststroke and took second in the 400-yard IM. As it turns out, that was only a precursor for Marchand’s international emergence this week in Budapest.

“It’s a dream for me because five years ago, I was watching this race, and I was like, ‘Woah, that’s amazing,'” Marchand said. “And now, I can win two titles, so it’s amazing.”

Marchand has been at the center of a huge week for the French team, with six medals already in Budapest. In addition to Marchand’s three trips to the podium, Marie Wattel took silver in the women’s 100 fly Sunday, and earlier in the Wednesday evening session, Maxime Grousset captured silver in the men’s 100 free and Analia Pigree claimed bronze in the women’s 50 back.

“I feel like there is a very positive environment in the French team, and everybody knows that they can do something in each race,” Marchand said. “That is the first time I’ve felt that in this team, so that’s great.

Foster, meanwhile, earned his second silver medal of the week after he previously posted a very impressive 4:06.56 in the 400 IM, and he moved up to 14th on the all-time list.

“I was excited. I think that was kind of my goal going into this season was to get down into that 1:55 range so now we got more room to improve on and try and break the next barrier: get into the 1:54s,” Foster said, according to USA Swimming. On competing against Marchand, he said. “He is like the nicest kid ever, and it makes him easy to race. He is obviously very talented, so we are going to have some great races in the coming years, I hope, and we’re bringing the best out of both of us.”

After narrowly missing out on qualifying for the 2021 Olympic team, Foster has performed exceptionally well at his first major long course international competition, and he will conclude his World Championships when he swims the men’s 800 free relay Thursday. “Super happy. Just coming off this past year and two silver medals is way more than I expected. I am going to celebrate the second place for a little bit, but next goal is to get on top,” he said, according to USA Swimming.

Daiya Seto, the Japanese veteran who was the 2019 world champion in this event, took bronze in 1:56.22. This was a rebound performance for Seto after he was completely shut out of the medals at the Olympics last year. Kalisz placed fourth in 1:56.43, and Great Britain’s Tom Dean performed well in his first-ever medley final at a major meet as he took sixth in 1:56.77.

None of the Olympic medalists from last year in this race competed in the final. Silver medalist Duncan Scott entered the meet with the fastest time in the world (and after the final, he still ranks third), but Scott was forced to withdraw from the meet after difficulties in his recovery from COVID-19. Tokyo bronze medalist Jeremy Desplanches was 11th in the semifinals, and gold medalist Wang finished 16th.

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