After World Junior Record in 100 Free, Watch Out for David Popovici in Tokyo

David POPOVICI ROU swimming, nuoto LEN European Junior Swimming Championships 2021 Rome 2176 Stadio Del Nuoto Foro Italico Photo Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto
David Popovici -- Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

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After World Junior Record in 100 Free, Watch Out for David Popovici

Before this year, David Popovici had an international track record that consisted of three medals at the 2019 European Youth Olympic festival, where he won a gold medal in the 100 free and two silver medals while just 14 years old, and one appearance in a European championships final, two months ago. Now, one swim has put Popovici right in the Olympic medal hunt.

In May, the 16-year-old Popovici broke the Romanian national record in the 100 free during all three rounds at the European Championships, from 48.30 in prelims to 48.28 in semifinals to 48.08 in the final. And Tuesday, at the European Junior Championships in Rome, Popovici won the 100 free in 47.56, crushing his best time by more than a half-second. He clipped the world junior record of 47.57 that Andrei Minakov swam last October, which in turn broke the previous WJR of 47.58 that Kyle Chalmers swam on his way to Olympic gold in 2016.

Yes, to reiterate, the 16-year-old just swam faster than the time that won Olympic gold in 2016.

Popovici now ranks fourth in the world in the event, behind Russia’s Kliment Kolesnikov, the USA’s Caeleb Dressel and Italy’s Alessandro Miressi, and one spot ahead of Chalmers. And his rate of improvement is tremendous—beyond the half-second in two months, he is more than two seconds faster than the 49.82 he swam at the European Youth Olympic festival two years ago. With that body of work, Popovici has to be considered a threat for an Olympic medal in the 100 free at the Tokyo Olympics.

The record-breaking swim came as the leadoff leg on a Romanian relay, so he will still have all three of his individual events to come this week, including the 100 free. He could end up dipping below 47.5 if he has more in the tank. Popovici also swam the 50 free at the European Championships, where he finished 24th in 22.43, and he finished 20th in the 200 free in 1:48.38, setting a Romanian national record. But in June, he demolished that time with a 1:46.15 at a meet in Bucharest (a race he won by 11 seconds) to rank himself in the global top 20. So another drop could be in order this week, which would make him at least a threat to qualify for the Olympic final.

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1 year ago

He could be the talk of the town come Tokyo !! New wunderkid from a non swimming powerhouse!