Leon Marchand joins legends with third gold medal of swimming worlds
France’s Léon Marchand capped his world championships with a third individual gold medal in as many events, cementing his status as the world’s best swimmer.
Marchand won the 200m individual medley at worlds in 1 minute, 54.82 seconds in Fukuoka, Japan. He became the third-fastest man in history in the event behind Ryan Lochte (world record 1:54.00) and Michael Phelps (1:54.16).
Earlier in the meet, he broke Phelps’ last individual world record in the 400m IM, plus won the 200m butterfly to become the third-fastest man in history in that event. He is also the fastest man in the world this year in the 200m breaststroke, and fourth-fastest in history, but dropped that event this week as it overlapped with the 200m IM.
He became the eighth man to win three individual golds at a single worlds, joining a list that includes Phelps, Lochte and, most recently, Caeleb Dressel.
“It felt amazing,” Marchand said, adding that he will try his best to break Lochte’s world record in the future. “It has been a very big four days for me.”
Marchand, an Arizona State student trained by Phelps’ career-long coach Bob Bowman, might be the host nation’s biggest star across all sports at the Paris Olympics.
He broke through at last year’s worlds, sweeping the medleys and taking 200m fly silver behind world record holder Kristof Milak of Hungary, who is not swimming this week for health reasons.
Also Thursday, Australia shattered the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay world record by 1.79 seconds.
Anchor Ariarne Titmus broke her own record for fastest relay split in history, bringing it down from 1:52.82 to 1:52.41. Mollie O’Callaghan earned her third gold of the meet, all in world record times (also 4x100m free relay and 200m free).
Australia is up to nine gold medals, more than twice any other nation.
“We’re having the meet of our life,” Titmus said on Australia’s Nine Network while joined by her three relay teammates. All four are in the same training group under coach Dean Boxall.
Katie Ledecky was part of the U.S. silver-medal team, earning her 25th career world medal, third-most in history behind Phelps (33) and Lochte (27).
Summer McIntosh, a 16-year-old Canadian, repeated as world champion in the 200m fly, clocking 2:04.06 to break her world junior record. She moved up from finishing fourth in the 400m free and third in the 200m free earlier in the week.
McIntosh, whose mom swam the 200m fly at the 1984 Olympics, distanced Australian Elizabeth Dekkers by 1.4 seconds.
Regan Smith, the American record holder and Olympic silver medalist, took bronze. About 35 minutes later, Smith earned silver in the 50m backstroke (which is not on the Olympic program), three hundredths behind Australian Kaylee McKeown.
China’s Zhang Yufei, the Olympic 200m fly gold medalist, scratched the event before Wednesday’s preliminary heats.
Australian Kyle Chalmers took the 100m freestyle for his second individual gold at a global championship, seven years after his first in the Rio Olympic 100m free. In between, he underwent two heart surgeries for an elevated-heart-rate condition and said his mental health reached “rock bottom” last year.
“Probably just defining myself a lot more than just Kyle Chalmers the swimmer,” Chalmers said. “Two days a week I’m laboring on a building site.”
Rising Cal junior Jack Alexy took silver, 16 hundredths behind, one year after placing 24th in the 100m free prelims at the U.S. trials. Alexy became the second-fastest American in history in the event behind Olympic gold medalist Dressel.
Romanian David Popovici, who swept the 100m and 200m frees at last year’s worlds at age 17, finished sixth after placing fourth in the 200m on Tuesday.
Swimming worlds finals continue Friday at 7 a.m. ET, live on Peacock. Ryan Murphy and Lilly King defend their world titles in the 200m backstroke and 200m breaststroke, respectively.