Michael Phelps believes time is ticking on his last remaining individual world record.
Phelps has held the world record in the 400m individual medley since 2002. His lowered it eight times total, ultimately to 4 minutes, 3.84 seconds at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“Hopefully, maybe fingers crossed, I’m going to be greedy and try to keep that record for one more year,” he said in a sitdown interview in France on Thursday.
Nobody swum within a second of it until this past June. That’s when France’s Léon Marchand, a 20-year-old pupil of Phelps’ career-long coach Bob Bowman, rattled Phelps’ time. He went under world record pace through 350 meters before falling 44 hundredths shy of it at the world championships.
“I’m excited to see a kid come up and challenge that record,” Phelps said. “That’s what I want. I would love that.”
Marchand is a student-athlete at Arizona State. Phelps lives in Arizona. Marchand said at worlds in June that they have not met, but they have messaged.
“He reminds me a lot of myself with the competitiveness when you get into it, kind of a dogfight in a race,” Phelps said. “He doesn’t lose many of those.”
The ultra-competitive Phelps may have motivation for his world record to last one more year. If it makes it through next June, he will break the record for longest time holding the world record in an individual Olympic swimming event since World War II, according to Swimming Stats.
The next world championships are in July. Marchand is also preparing for an experience that Phelps never had — a home Olympics in Paris in 2024.
“To be able to swim here, on your home soil, I will say I am jealous,” Phelps said.
Phelps believes another world record is on borrowed time — the 200m freestyle held by German Paul Biedermann since 2009 (1:42.00).
“If there’s one person on the planet that goes under 1:42 in the 200m free, it’s probably Popovici,” he said.
Phelps was referring to David Popovici, the Romanian phenom who just turned 18, one month after breaking a 13-year-old world record in the 100m free (46.86). Over three meets this summer, Popovici swam six of the 20 fastest 100m free times in history.
“I mean, the kid went 46.9, 47.0, 47.0, 47.1, 47.1, 47.2 in the 100m frees this year,” Phelps said. “I pay attention to all that stuff.”
In his Olympic debut in Tokyo, Popovici finished higher in the 200m free (fourth) than the 100m (seventh).
Last month, he swam the fourth-fastest 200m free time in history — 1:42.97. That was one hundredth off Phelps’ personal best in the event, which Phelps dubbed his best race of his eight-gold-medal performance at the 2008 Beijing Games.
“To see somebody swim as efficiently as he does, his stroke is very good,” Phelps said. “It’s just a matter of time before he gets even stronger and swims even faster.”
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