There is no doubt that Michael Phelps is the greatest-ever Olympian. During his illustrious career, he won an absurd amount of Olympic gold medals, 23 to be exact. Phelps set a bar for gold so high that it’s unlikely it will ever be challenged. The swimmer’s total medal count is 28, which will never be challenged, either.
Phelps utilized his length in the pool to his advantage during his amazing career. Standing 6’4 inches and weighing in at just under 200 pounds, Phelps was a muscled, sleek, aerodynamic machine in the pool. When he retired in 2016, Phelps held five individual world records.
However, records are made to be broken, at least some are anyway, and since Phelps’s retirement, he has seen four of the five individual records fall. On Sunday, the Olympic legend was on hand to witness the final record falling.
In Fukuoka, Japan, 21-year-old Frenchman Leon Marchand bested Phelps’s final record as he scorched the pool for the 400-meter individual medley. While not the pure physical specimen like Phelps, the 6’0, 170-pound Marchand dusted the record with an insane 4.02.50.
Phelps, who set the record at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in China with a then-unheard-of 4.03.84, saw his mark fall by over a second. Due to the difficult nature of the 400-meter individual relay, some thought it would never be broken.
The race consists of the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle, so a swimmer must be very well-rounded to pull off such an impressive feat. Phelps was, and now you can add Marchand to the list. To add extra drama, Phelps was broadcasting the event and presented Marchand with the medal for the victory.
As he was commentating, Phelps said: “I’m just pumped about this swim. Oh, my gosh!” The former record holder seemed not only graceful watching his last record fall but also excited to be on hand to witness history. Phelps rushed to the podium and held Marchand’s hand up as he was awarded his victory.
For Marchand, the 21-year-old that trains at Arizona State University under the tutelage of Bob Bowman, the coach of the American team at the world championships, he now finds himself the prohibitive favorite to take home gold in the upcoming Paris Olympics in front of his home crowd.
After the race, Marchand commented: “That was insane, one of the most painful things I’ve done. It was amazing to do it here, and the time is crazy.”
The blistering pace, as well as the difficult nature of a race of that length, is taxing on even the fittest of competitors. Marchand made it look easy, but he felt it afterward. However, he is also seeking improvement.
He continued: “The best is yet to come.”I think I can handle the pressure pretty well right now. It’s not perfect and I can get better and I have one year to improve.”
He is, of course, referring to the upcoming games in France. The young swimmer will have a golden opportunity to secure gold in Paris and become a national hero. For Phelps’s part, he handled the moment with grace and class, as usual. It is a new era in men’s swimming, and the Paris Olympics should be well worth tuning in.
Featured image screen grab from embedded YouTube video
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