Arizona State Star Leon Marchand Shares Advice He Received From Michael Phelps

by Riley Overend 42

March 09th, 2023 College, News, Pac-12, Paris 2024

Arizona State head coach Bob Bowman and three Sun Devil swimmers reflected on their first Pac-12 title in program history and the eight-year turnaround that took place during a media session on Tuesday.

“I’m so happy we can do it for ASU,” said Bowman, who was hired prior to the 2015-16 season. “We get so much support and we’ve had a plan in place going on for eight years to get to this level. It’s nice to see it come to fruition.”

On Saturday night, ASU dethroned Cal, which had claimed the conference title for the past five seasons, while becoming the first non-California program to own the Pac-12 crown.

“We had to build a culture, we had to build a high performance culture and that took a lot of time because we had to bring in not only the people who do that,” Bowman added. “We had some people filter out as we moved along and each year it just got better and better. Then, once we got Léon (Marchand) last year where our talent level really jumped up, all the pieces are in place.”

Looking back, Bowman referred to fifth year Grant House as “the first brick we put in place to build this.”

“When I recruited him, there was not a reason in the world for him to believe we can do anything like this,” Bowman said of House. “So he did it all in faith. I’m so grateful to him for coming in and he’s such a great leader of the team now and he’s been here awhile and he leads their performance outside of the pool. He’s been an integral part of what we’re doing.”

House won his second 200 free title in a row at Pac-12s this year, but his veteran leadership outside the pool has been just as important for the growth of the program.

“He was bought into ASU from the day he committed and his commitment has brought in a lot of people, one of our biggest recruiters,” Bowman said of House. “He knows how to talk about ASU and the great things that are going on and he’s done so much not only as an undergrad but now he’s in graduate school, Sports Law and Business program, which is an amazing program that a lot of our people are going into. So, he’s a great ambassador for ASU as well as being a great swimmer for ASU.”

Of course, there’s no talking about ASU without mentioning star sophomore Leon Marchand, who swept all three of his individual events (200 IM, 400 IM, 200 breast) at Pac-12s while setting two NCAA records along the way. His ability to go fast without tapering reminds Bowman of another Olympic phenom he mentored: Michael Phelps.

“They both swim very well all the time,” Bowman said of Phelps and Marchand. “Like Léon heavy training with 4:31 (400 IM) and once we taper, we will be faster. That was my goal, he just put up really good times in the regular training, so they’re very similar in that way. They both have speed and endurance, the main difference was Michael was very good at backstroke and Leon’s very good at breaststroke. Other than that, they’re very comparable in many ways.”

For Marchand, the NCAA Championships are another step on the path to the Paris 2024 Olympics, where the 20-year-old Frenchman will be competing on home soil.

“I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to compete in Paris next year, I’m very excited and am training everyday to figure out how to win there,” Marchand said. “I still have a lot of steps before with the NCAAs and next year will help me evolve too. I’m trying to go one step at a time, very excited.”

Marchand shared some of the advice he’s received from Phelps, whose 400 IM world record he nearly broke at last summer’s World Championships.

“I’ve talked to him a little bit, just giving me some advice on my stroke and on my turns and stuff,” Marchand said of Phelps. “He’s just very excited for me because I have the chance to compete at home. I’m just very lucky.”

Not only does Marchand set the bar high during training, but teammates say he also has a lighthearted energy about himself that keeps practices fun.

“I never swam with Michael, but I get to swim with Léon,” House said. “He just makes it fun everyday. When he came in, I kind of expected him to be this very Type-A, very straightforward guy and he’s just so relaxed and so calm about everything even before the races. Like I continually find myself gravitating towards him because I’m more too tensed and too focused often and just having his aura, his energy around is very comforting and very uplifting. In the pool everyday, it wears off too and wears off on all of us too to have that belief and our belonging.

“I mean, he’s reached heights that Michael never has in the short course already, so the comparison when I see him to see Léon, I see someone who wants to get better everyday and I think that’s the coolest thing because I don’t even second guess his ability to be better than Michael at some point,” House added. “He’s already better than him in certain aspects, both of them are amazing athletes and they’ll be the best athletes in the history of the sport by the time that he’s done without a doubt in my mind. It’s just fun not to even really have the thoughts of those comparisons on a day-to-day, but you hear the name and it’s like ‘Oh, that guy.’ Both are amazing athletes for sure but right now it’s just really cool to see how successful an athlete Léon is and relaxed and how fun he is.”

Check out the complete collection of quotes below:

Head Coach Bob Bowman

On Zalan Sarkany’s impact:

“Zalan’s been really important for us because we wanted to strengthen our distance swimming and when he became available we knew that he would be somebody certainly at the Pac-12 and the NCAA levels that he could be someone who could step in and score points there. He just did a great job under some pressure to perform.”

On how competitive it gets in practices:

“Well, it was evident today. Hubert Kos who came from Hungary at the semester as well got third in the Pac-12s in the 400 IM swam a really good 200 back, he pushes Léon in practice all of the time. He’s another Olympian. Owen McDonald, freshman, right in there with them and on a given day there’s three or four other different people who can push him. So it’s been a great, competitive environment for these guys.”

On team’s success in relays this season:

“We have made relays a priority because that’s double points for these meets that we are going to and it also is a real measure of the strength of your team. So, I think a lot of them are sprint-oriented, so Herbie’s done there with some guys that are really helping us do that, you add Leon on to that. You add on some other people from here in the 200 and we’re pretty formidable in those relays. I’m looking forward to seeing what we do at NCAAs because I think we can be faster in all of them.”

On being the first non-California school to win the Pac-12 Championship:

“It’s a special group of guys and they have brought us to a place where we are now relevant in the top of our sport and how far we go in two weeks remains to be seen and I feel pretty good about it. But I think what it means is we’re now gonna be in the conversation for what’s happening at not only the Pac-12 Championships but at the NCAA Championships and that was our goal. We want to be consistently competitive in those events.”

On what needs to happen to feel in a good position for success at NCAAs:

“They need to bounce back from the meet we just had, which is pretty stressful and emotional. Really just fine tune some details and get themselves ready to swim in the morning because preliminaries at NCAAs are the most important. The Pac-12s are a little bit easier to make the finals than it is in the NCAAs so they will have to be ready to swim in the morning.”

On importance of swimmers finishing top-10 in Pac-12s and how important they are:

“The key to championship performance is not necessarily your top three or four guys but it’s the ten below it. All of those guys on our roster really perform, you got freshman like Cale Martter, you got Jack Wadsworth who transferred in. You got David Schlicht, he’s actually in the top two or three of our things. Pretty much through the whole roster everybody moved up and that’s what you need to do.”

On building off of performance at Pac-12s and bringing in guys who are consistently going to perform at that level:

“Next year’s class is done and are definitely going to help us, one of our guys (Ilya Kharun) just set the Canadian record in the 200 fly, he’s gonna be a big help for us. We have some other people coming in who are going to be.”

On if Michael Phelps reached out and what messages he had:

“We had dinner last night, I go there for dinner most nights to see my grandkids. We just talked about specifics of the meet and how people split certain races and, ‘Yeah he could probably go faster if they do this and that.’ We just sort of analyzed, that’s what we always do. But he was super pleased.”

On 2024 Olympics in Paris and Marchand competing at home:

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for Léon and we will have him as ready as we can make him. So, right now, we’re taking it a step at a time and we just have to him consistently come in and have him improve incrementally over the next year and half and if we do that we will be ready.”

On the Gatorade toss after the meet:

“I did not see it coming and it was awesome because the guys were so happy. To see the joy on their faces makes all the work we’ve done really worthwhile. I’m not a big team meeting guy with long meetings but every Monday morning the first five minutes of practice, we get together to meet in the locker room and meet and just go over what our goals are for the week and what we are trying to do and how we want to go about our business. All of the things we talk about in those meetings came to fruition in that meet, so it’s very gratifying to see that not only are they swimming well but learning the other lessons that lead to even higher performances later.”

Sophomore Léon Marchand

On aftermath of competing at Pac-12s:

“It’s difficult to do because we left a lot of energy during the meet, it was very intense. We want to try and enjoy it too because we won the Pac-12s, so it’s a good thing for the team. But we got to go back to train, today was actually pretty hard for our training but we got to focus on the next step which is NCAAs.”

On emotions before competing:

“That was just crazy, we were just enjoying the moment so much. It was kind of a hard meet because we were crunching to do the math everyday to see if we can win the meet and how. When we started, it was just crazy to be able to win with those guys.”

On being the first non-California school to win the Pac-12 Championship:

“We were the seventh team at ASU to [ever] win the Pac-12, which is also crazy. I’m just proud to be a part of this team.”

On what makes this group special:

“There’s a lot of things, I think the seniors brought the culture which is pretty unique. This year we had some freshmen who were able to score a lot of points like Owen, who was in A finals and he really pulled it out this year. We’re all just like pretty good friends all around like we live 24/7 together and we just love each other, so that’s where it’s special.”

On culture of the team to push each other:

“Everyday here in practice, for example when I’m training for fly, I have Alex Colson with me because he’s going to push me on that and in backstroke, I’m going to have Owen. There’s someone in each stroke that can push me. So I think we are able to push each other everyday in practice and at the meet too.”

On what goes into his mindset that’s very unique to him:

“I think one of the main things at trainings and every practice and swimming’s kind of hard to train and process sometimes because it’s very hard to practice at 6 a.m.”

On impact of comparisons:

“It was pretty hard for me to manage two years ago maybe but now I’m getting used to it and here it’s kind of easier because we’re a team and practicing everyday because those guys are so fast. Also we’re suiting up every week, so I guess it makes it easier.”

On consistency of competing and having the sport as an outlet:

“Like Grant said, we have nothing to lose this year. That’s what I’ve felt with myself, too, and just trying to get better everyday, it can be in practice and meets and stuff. But just with swimming we just want to get better and enjoy it, having fun everyday.”

Graduate student Grant House

On being the first “building block” of this program and seeing the program grow:

“It’s been a phenomenal climb and it is the reason why I came here. It’s a huge aspect of the vision I had with Coach Bowman when I came here and first sat down in his office about my expectations of coming here and being a national championship team, Pac-12 championship team and making the Olympics and those three stipulations and just working towards that everyday and raising it up. It’s pretty incredible to see the difference from my freshman year of maybe only having 11 or 12 of us at the meet and then almost getting beat by Utah and then this year to see a class of eight freshmen alone or seven freshmen holding up the Pac-12 title trophy. It definitely got my tears going on that one, so it was pretty incredible to see the difference that it can make. It seems like a long time but honestly just five years.”

On how team prepares for the NCAAs:

“I think Pac-12s was definitely the best preparation we had, that’s why we suited against Stanford, Cal and U of A as those preparatory steps to get us ready for the ultimate point and ultimately use Pac-12s as a stepping stone on to the platform we want to utilize to be the best at NCAAs. None of us really talked about winning a Pac-12 title this year, it was just going to be a by-product of the process that we’ve been on. Like I didn’t really talk about it too much, I was focused on the season. I thought we had a very successful Pac-12s last year and there was some stuff left on the table for some of us, I mean everyone on the team from Léon down to our last swimmers as well that we can improve on last year. So, really it is a byproduct of sticking to our process, hitting the preparation points and I know Jack’s going to be more prepared at NCAAs, Leon, myself especially. We’re just going to have a lot of guys that are going to be competing everyday and helping us get ready for that competitive atmosphere because when you get to prelims those times are going to be faster than most of the final times at any conference meet. So to prepare the best we can is to be in the most competitive environment and that was the intense dual we had with Cal this last week. So now it’s these last couple of days refreshing and recovering and letting our minds rest a little bit and then just tightening a bunch of screws everyday and sharpening our blades and go into NCAAs and we have two weeks from tomorrow.”

On pressure from increase in wins:

“I think the sense of belonging and belief is a byproduct of the work we’re putting in. Bob continues to tell us and he knows being the Olympic coach multiple times. Like very few people in the world and definitely in the nation not working as hard as us and the people that come in, the pros that come in will hear Chase (Kalisz), his interviews compared to what he was doing at Georgia, this is exponentially harder and more difficult. Just leaning on that work and getting to the end of the season like 30 weeks of this style of work, this intensity, I’m just enjoying it. Then join the rest in knowing that when I step on the blocks by these guys, they’ve known that work and I think honestly there’s absolutely no pressure on any of us. Like the perceived target on our back is just a label or an idea that people have because it’s really just nonexistent for us. Anything we do is just icing on the cake at this point, we’re exceeding what our program has done far in a way than ever before in history we just accomplished something that a team in the state of Arizona has never done before. So anything we’re doing is just fun and it’s just freeing, like for guys like Cal and Texas and Florida, they have spots to lose, they’ve been up there for four or five years, two or three decades. So it’s there spot to lose and they always will have the target and they’re used to it maybe, that’s something that we don’t have to worry about because we’re just climbing the ranks every year and just getting better and better and improving our ability every year.”

On the balance Bowman has brought to the program:

“Bob used to have to get on every single person every single day after every meet, every swim. Now we have swimmers that are actually confident here and have a high level of ability, that care, that want to work hard, that do work hard and do all of the things right so he doesn’t have to hold their hands or smack their hand every other time. We have such a high level of excellence and standards, it’s just every time we take a breath out, it’s just breath back in, good posture and go forward. It’s not anything if you have to be better, you have to be better than this, you’re not doing enough, it’s just keeping in line and reminders of this is the standard you set when you came here, this is the reason you came here as well. Just kind of not operating at extremes but balancing the pendulum of performances. What he’s always taught me, and every year I gotten here he’s gotten more relaxed, which is probably more comical to some of the guys on the team. But it’s just a testament to how hard the guys are working here and how more receptive they are to the training that we’re getting from Herbie, Logan, Bob, everyone here. There’s no more resistance in the gears, it’s just everything smoothly running along the machines, operating properly and you see it. Bob feels it, you can hear it in practice like there’s very few and it’s more energy that he’s uplifting with us and getting excited at practices now rather than having to make sure everyone’s doing what they need to do when they’re slacking off or something like that. We have 15 guys going to NCAAs which is incredible.”

On seeing the progression over his time as a Sun Devil:

“It’s pretty invigorating like someone put up a picture of how it started versus how it’s going now when I had my commitment picture and Bob and I holding up the trophy now and it was just very surreal. I had the realization about two months ago with Jonny Kulow and Patrick Sammon training with Herbie’s group and with Dolan as well and I just had to laugh when I just looked at Patrick, he’s a sophomore, Jonny is a phenomenal freshman and both of them far exceed wherever I was at that progression and just having to laugh because I was like, these guys just don’t give me a session off. They are relentless everyday, Dolan helping me to get better at one of my least best strokes and just improving everyday. There’s no breaks in this environment, this competitive atmosphere and at the end of the day whether you beat someone or you don’t, we can all laugh and smile and move on to the next day to get even better.”

Redshirt junior Jack Dolan

On relays and what makes them dominant:

“Just how we compete with each other everyday, there’s probably six or seven guys that could make each and every relay we have. So, I think just having that competition everyday in practice, everybody just has to fight to get to their spot on the relay. By the time we get to the relay, everybody’s already ready.”

On difference of approach this year:

“It’s similar but the culture of the guys is different in a way, it’s a real belief in each other that we haven’t had in previous years. We were just kind of fighting to make a name for ourselves these past few years, now we have a belief in each other that we actually compete for an NCAA championship. The coaches believe in us, we believe in each other, so that’s been the main difference.”

On where the belief has come from:

“I think overall we’ve brought in a lot of really good swimmers, we have the two Hungarians that have come in, Léon’s come in, some of the freshmen that have come in have made a huge impact. All of the upperclassmen have really improved a lot, so I think just from an overall standpoint, we’re a lot more prepared than we have been in previous years and I think that’s what led up to that.”

On pressure from other teams and increase in wins:

“Ever since Bob has come here, it’s kind of shaken up the world and we’ve built a program over the past few years that have been where we are now, a real contender. So, I think other teams have taken notice and obviously nobody really wants to be beat by a team that was cut ten years ago.”

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1 year ago

I think to compare Leon to Michael Phelps’ achievements at this point is vastly premature. There are also many a few other factors to consider including how race times in the sports have gotten much faster.

Concluding the Leon is more talented or “a better all around swimmer” than Michael in 2023, is similar to saying Michael in 2003 is a better than the best swimmer in the world in 1988 simply because his times are approaching WRs set in 1988. I use that timespan because that’s how long it’s been since since Michael set many of his best times. And we all probably wince a little because the natural expectation is to expect times in 2003 to be SIGNIFICANTLY… Read more »

1 year ago

I suspect there was some difficulty transcribing the interview with House: “…pros that come in will hear and trace his interviews compared to what he was doing at Georgia, …”

It would seem to make more sense if “trace” is actually “Chase,” as in Chase Kalisz, who had been training in Georgia before coming back with Bowman and his pro group this fall.

Overall, great set of interviews.

1 year ago

In case there was any doubt, BB is a great coach. His team has great chemistry. Full of positive energy. Kudos to ASU for caring enough about swimming to hire him.

1 year ago

“I mean, he’s reached heights that Michael never has in the short course already, so the comparison when I see him to see Léon, I see someone who wants to get better everyday and I think that’s the coolest thing because I don’t even second guess his ability to be better than Michael at some point,” House added.

Léon Marchand does not need to become the next Michael Phelps, he just needs to be the first Léon Marchand.

Reply to  Bossanova
1 year ago

Can you shut up with this unbelievably over-used cliche?

Mr Sandal
Reply to  Tanner
1 year ago


Reply to  Tanner
1 year ago

Call it like I see it

Emily Se-Bom Lee
Reply to  Tanner
1 year ago

at this point, their last sentence is more overused than the original phrase

Last edited 1 year ago by Emily Se-Bom Lee
Reply to  Tanner
1 year ago

You and your obviously organized upvotes are clearly professional level at majoring in minors. The point is Marchand is a wonderful athlete everyong in the sport should appreciate, not to nitpick at the people trying to describe his skills.

Reply to  Bossanova
1 year ago

Downvotes should be used judiciously, not stupidly.

Reply to  dscott
1 year ago

Totally agree! It’s okay though the downvotes flood my brain with just as much dopamine as upvotes would 😂

Also, this was a great article and I hope to see more like it in the future!

1 year ago

this is the kind of article i’d like to see more of- a lot of times i don’t like watching the video articles because there’s no transcription of the content and i don’t have the effort to put headphones in to watch the video.

1 year ago

“When I recruited him, there was not a reason in the world for him to believe we can do anything like this,” Bowman said of House. “So he did it all in faith. I’m so grateful to him for coming in and he’s such a great leader of the team now and he’s been here awhile and he leads their performance outside of the pool. He’s been an integral part of what we’re doing.”

Got to be honest, for a long time I thought of Bob Bowman as something of a jerk. But the above says a great deal about his character, and shows a man who really appreciates everything he’s been given and how hard he and everyone else… Read more »

Mr Piano
Reply to  mikeh
1 year ago

I think he may have been harder to deal with as a person when he was younger, but as he’s aged he’s gotten wiser and has grown in ways like we all do.

1 year ago

Bob referring to Phelps’ kids as his grandkids makes me a little teary-eyed, it’s very wholesome.

Sparky knows
1 year ago

Actually, Cameron Craig was probably the 1st block, then House, Bybee the next year, then Dolan. Things started rolling after that.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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