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College Athletics

ASU’s Léon Marchand preps for Pac-12, NCAA championships en route to second Olympic appearance

Posted 2/28/24

PHOENIX — Arizona State junior swimming savant Léon Marchand is expected to be the face of the French national team at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

But first things first.

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College Athletics

ASU’s Léon Marchand preps for Pac-12, NCAA championships en route to second Olympic appearance


PHOENIX — Arizona State junior swimming savant Léon Marchand is expected to be the face of the French national team at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.

But first things first.

For now, Marchand is focused on getting through the Pac-12 Conference Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships and leading the Sun Devils in pursuit of an NCAA title. And that means remaining in the present and taking each meet one at a time.

“I think the NCAA system is good for that because we have one individual meet at a time,” Marchand said during a recent media availability. “I think we’ve been doing pretty well and just focusing on each dual meet. We won every single one except the one at Cal. We tied, but that was still a great one, too.

“Now I’ll focus on the next step, which is the Pac-12s in two weeks and then NCAA (Championships) in one month.”

Marchand has someone in his corner who coached the most decorated Olympian of all time, swimmer Michael Phelps.

In his eighth season at Arizona State, coach Bob Bowman brings a plethora of experience with Olympic swimmers. He also served as men’s head coach for Team USA at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and as the assistant coach in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.

Marchand, a five-time NCAA champion, trusts his coach to have him prepared for what’s ahead the remainder of this season, knowing that the Olympic Games are right around the corner.

“Coach Bowman has been to the Olympics seven times already, so I think he knows how to handle that,” Marchand said. “It’s all different this time because, of course, we have another goal, which is the NCAA title that we’re trying to win.

“But he definitely has a lot of advice. He’s very calm, and he knows how to manage all of that. I just trust him, trust the process and try to work harder and harder every day to get ready when I will be at the NCAAs and in Paris.”

The Sun Devil men’s swim and dive team is trying to build upon the successes the Sun Devils had during the 2022-23 season. ASU was ranked No. 1 for the first time in program history, won its first Pac-12 Championship and was the first non-California program to win a conference title. Then the Sun Devils moved on to the NCAA championships, where they placed second nationally, the highest mark in program history.

So far in the 2023-24 season, ASU has continued to exceed expectations. The Sun Devils, with Marchand leading the way, are ranked No. 1 in the nation and have posted a 9-0-1 dual meet record, with the only tie coming against conference rival and No. 3 ranked California. The Golden Bears are also the defending national champs.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the program, though. A year before Marchand came to Tempe, the program was on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That time allowed the Sun Devils to train and establish a new identity and intensity for the following years under Bowman.

When Marchand stepped onto campus for the first time, Bowman saw someone trying to navigate a new place, like many of his former swimmers and divers. Marchand has seen the program evolve since his freshman season.

“I think the dynamic has been better every year since I came here,” Marchand said. “As a freshman, I didn’t want to say anything because you’re just following everyone, and I was kind of lost. So everyone was helping a lot and it was great, but the dynamic has been way better in the past few months.

“We are always together, we’re all friends, we spend a lot of time together, and I think we’re ready. We’ve been ready since August.”

Bowman echoed Marchand’s statement and offered insight into Marchand’s development since the 2021-22 season.

“He’s kind of taken the journey that most kids do in college, right?” Bowman said. “When you’re a freshman, you’re out on your own for the first time, have some freedom, have a little bit of responsibility but not too much. So to balance that a little bit, you have to learn how to do things for yourself.

“He was pretty independent when he came, but each successive year it’s been fun to see him grow as a man, as an athlete. And he’s very serious about swimming. So that was never a problem, and he’s learned how to manage the things away from the pool that everyone has to do when you go to college. So he’s really had just sort of a natural progression, very much like the other guys on the team.”

Lindsay Looney, a senior on Arizona State women’s team, has witnessed how the men’s and women’s programs have flourished since coming to Tempe. The 2023 All-American for the 200-meter fly and 500-meter freestyle gave recognition to her head coach for finding how each swimmer operates.

“He’s had to create different training styles for me, for Léon, for everybody else on the team, preparing for these big competitions,” Looney said during last Friday’s Zoom call with reporters. “So much goes into it, and I think that’s one thing that we’ve definitely discovered over the past few years together.”

With the Summer Olympics approaching in a matter of months, Marchand is trying to strike a balance in his schedule between classwork and time in the pool before the push through the Pac-12 meet, NCAA championships and Paris Games begins.

But he also tries to take time to relax.

“Just balancing between classes and being four hours in the water every day, it’s pretty hard,” Marchand said. “But this year I have less classes. I wanted to have more time for myself for the Olympic year.”