The young Romanian prodigy improved the world record for the 100m freestyle in the final of the European Swimming Championships on Saturday in Rome.
David Popovici strikes again. The new sensation of world swimming, who is not yet 18, broke the world record for the 100m freestyle in the final of the European Championships on Saturday in Rome. “There aren’t many adjectives I can use to describe how I feel. I’m just happy“, he simply said after receiving his medal.
At 17, the recent double world champion erased from the shelves the mark of the Brazilian Cesar Cielo, who had held since 2009, by winning in 46.86, or 5 hundredths better. Not far from the perfect race? “I think yes“, he launched. “Well, it’s up to my coach to decide that, but so far I think it’s probably the best race I’ve ever done.»
“I planned to go really fast and I planned to have fun and that was about it. We had to think about little technical things but apart from that, the medal is a bonus, a great bonus of course and I’m really happy to have broken this legendary world record“, explained Popovici. In the open-air pool of Foro Italico, a huge multi-sports complex in the Italian capital, he beat Hungarian Kristof Milak (47.47) and Italian Alessandro Miressi (47.63), Frenchman Maxime Grousset having to settle for fourth place.
Popovici, crowned at the World Championships in Budapest in the 100 and 200 meters freestyle, therefore improved the world record achieved in combination by Cielo thirteen years ago, at the time – bygone – when records fell by the shovel thanks to polyurethane suits. “It’s nice to set new boundaries. Records are made to be broken. I hope someone beats mine and I beat theirs. That’s sports“, did he declare.
Friday in the semi-final, in a time of 46 sec 98, the native of Bucharest became the fourth man only to go under 47 seconds behind Cielo, the Frenchman Alain Bernard (46.94) and the American Caeleb Dressel (46.98). Note that Bernard’s brand had not been officially approved due to an invalid combination.
“Yesterday I said the European record was just a step in the right direction, and I was right.“, recalled Popovici after his achievement. “There was no rush and I had to be extremely patient for the world record“, explained the Romanian swimmer. “These championships are not over yet, nor this very long season“, underlined the one who has yet to participate in the junior world championships which begin at the end of August in Peru. In Rome, he still has to compete in the 200 and 400 m freestyle.
“It hurt, but it’s still worth it and I feel good now“, he explained about his race. “It was great and it’s very special to break this record which was set here in 2009 by Cesar Cieloin the same Foro Italico pool, Popovici added.
Revealed at the European Junior Championships last summer, already in Rome, Popovici confirmed a few weeks later at the Tokyo Olympics. When he was only 16 years old, he failed to 2 hundredths of bronze in the final of the 200m freestyle before taking seventh place in the final of the 100m freestyle.
His progress has not stopped. In Budapest last June, he became the first man to complete the 100-200m freestyle double at the World Championships in almost fifty years. His performance on Saturday finally put him at the top of world men’s swimming.