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From Tokyo to Tempe: Meet the ASU Freshmen Who Swam at the Olympics

Nov 15, 2021

Brandie Bosworth is a student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. She is working in the Public Relations Lab with the Sun Devil Athletics team and will graduate in the fall of 2021.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State University freshman Léon Marchand and redshirt freshman Jarod Arroyo, both from the men's swimming team, participated in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics over the summer. 

Marchand swam in the men's 400m individual medley, 200m butterfly, 200m individual medley and 4x10m medley relay. He currently holds the French record in the 400 individual medley and is number four all-time in Europe's history.

"The goal was the Olympics," Marchand said.

His talent in swimming runs in the family, as his parents are both former Olympic swimmers who competed for France. His father, Xavier Marchand, competed in 1996 and 2000 and his mother, Céline Bonnet, competed in 1992.

"It was just insane to live this experience. I think the thing I will remember the most is that everybody was in the same place, from every country." Marchand said.

He knew he wanted to be in the finals and started preparing for the games over a year before the Olympics, particularly focusing on the 400m and 200m events. The competition was intense and it went by in the blink of an eye. However, Marchand persevered and finished in sixth place for the 400 individual medley event. He recalls the biggest obstacle ahead of the final event - its start time.

"We did the heat very late, so we fell asleep at 1 a.m. The final was at 10 a.m. the day after," Marchand said. "Everyone is always very fast in the heat, so then in the final everyone was just dying."

Arroyo swam for Puerto Rico and participated in the men's 200m and 400m individual medley. He didn't perform as he hoped he would during the games, but he is appreciative of the experience he gained during the journey.

"Leading up to Tokyo, I was training double swim practices every Monday, Wednesday and Friday," Arroyo said. "On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday I had a single practice, then a weight lifting session after."

On the double practice days he was swimming around 15,000 yards, which is farther than the distance from Sun Devil Stadium to Phoenix Sky Harbor airport. For single practices, it was about 8,000 yards. On top of physical training, Arroyo also used affirmations and visualizations to mentally prepare for the highest level of competition in the world. His biggest regret is not enjoying the moment during his performance in the games. 

"I was caught up in trying to place for a medal," Arroyo said. "It was still an amazing experience, but I feel like [I should have] given myself more credit and enjoyed the process."

The enormity of his accomplishment didn't sink in until he got his Olympic rings tattoo in October. By this time, both Arroyo and Marchand were well into the fall semester at ASU. The pair planned to bring their Olympic experience to the men's swim and dive team, as they know the team has the ability to do something special this season.

Marchand said, "I chose ASU because of the coach, Bob [Bowman], and because of the great team."

Bowman, the head coach of ASU's swim teams, was the head coach for the US Swim team for the 2016 Rio Games. He is well-known for coaching Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps to earn 28 medals. The legendary coach's expertise is also what drew Arroyo to the ASU swim program. Phelps is one of Arroyo's idols and Arroyo considers Bowman to be the best coach in the world.

"The things that I would sacrifice and that I would do for swimming and for school isn't typically what your normal 20-year-old college student at ASU would sacrifice or be willing to do," Arroyo said.

Arroyo, who overcame a childhood fear of water, is determined to give his all to the swim program whether it be for practice or for competitions. He and his family dropped everything to move to Arizona, and he is extremely grateful for not only them but also his past and current coaches for being his support system. 

He is majoring in clinical exercise science and plans to open his own chiropractic practice. He also has future aspirations to pay homage to his Puerto-Rican roots by becoming a water-safety advocate for the island. When he's not in the pool, he's probably making a teriyaki bowl and watching a horror or Marvel movie. He likes to play the piano, which is a talent he also shares with Marchand. 

Marchand enjoys listening to music -- Drake is one of his many American influences -- and is currently studying computer science. He isn't completely sure what his post-ASU plans are yet. What he does know is that he is focusing on being the best swimmer he can for the university.

The two Sun Devils hope to return to the Olympics in 2024, when the Games will be set in Paris.