July 23, 2023, 9:02 a.m. ET
French teenager Leon Marchand set a world record in the men’s 400 meter individual medley Sunday, breaking the last individual record held by Michael Phelps of his illustrious swimming career.
Marchand cruised to the gold medal in 4 minutes, 2.50 seconds at the world championships in Fukuoka in southwest Japan. That broke the old record of 4:03.84 set by Phelps at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“It was crazy, one of the most painful things I’ve ever done,” Marchand said. “It’s amazing to do it here, and the timing is crazy.”
“The best is yet to come,” added Marchand, who received his medal at the victory ceremony from Phelps, who was present as a television commentator.
Phelps has held individual world records in five different races. He is still part of the world records set by the United States in the 4×100 and 4×200 freestyle relay.
Marchand, 21, swims for Arizona State and is coached by Bob Bowman, coach of the US team at the world championships. He is a hometown superstar who could potentially make the Paris Olympics next year and will also be the favorite in the 200 IM.
I think I can handle pressure pretty well now, said Marchand. “It’s not perfect and I can get better and I have one year to improve.”
He finished 4.06 seconds ahead of silver medalist Carson Foster of the United States. Daiya Seto of Japan took bronze, coming barely seven seconds behind Marchand.
It was the second of three world records to fall on the opening day of a swimming event at the World Aquatics Championships. Olympic champion Ariarne Titmus of Australia set a record on the star-studded women’s 400-metre freestyle course with a time of 3:55.38, finishing more than three seconds ahead of Katie Ledecky. Australia also set the women’s 4×100 freestyle relay record with a time of 3:27.96.
In other results, Sam Short of Australia clinched victory in the men’s 400 freestyle to dethrone compatriot Elijah Winnington.
Short, 19, clocked 3:40.68 to beat Olympic champion Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia by 0.02 seconds. Lukas Martens of Germany was 1.52 seconds behind to claim the bronze medal.
“I got goosebumps thinking I was racing him and my hands were on the wall first,” Short said of Hafnaoui’s race. “… A dream come true.”
Winnington, who captured the title in Budapest last year, is seventh of eight competitors.
In the men’s 4×100 freestyle relay, Australia won gold in a time of 3:10.16, with Italy taking silver (3:10.49) and the United States taking bronze (3:10.81) as the three nations automatically qualified for the Paris Olympics.
The British men’s team, pre-meeting favourites, did not compete after being disqualified for an early take-off by Jacob Whittle in their morning heat.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.