European Championships, Day 3 Finals: David Popovici Fires Off 46.88 100 Free; Third-Fastest Performance All-Time

David Popovici
David Popovici: Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli/Deepbluemedia

European Championships, Day 3 Finals: David Popovici Fires Off 46.88 100 Free; Third-Fastest Performance All-Time

David Popovici went 46.88 in the 100 free with the third-fastest time in history and one only he and Pan Zhanle have bettered.

The Romanian split 22.79/24.09 to retain his European title in the second-swiftest of his career, 0.02 off the 46.86 in which he won at the Foro Italico in 2022 in a then world record.

Pan lowered that to 46.80 on the leadoff of the Chinese 4×100 free at the World Championships in Doha.

“I just went as good as I could and the time wasn’t planned,” Popovici said. “But again the time is never planned, only the strategy.”

All the action from the European Championships in Belgrade on Wednesday:

Women’s 200 freestyle semifinals

Minna Abraham led the way in semis with a time of 1:57.65. That gets the top seed by .16 over 100 free champ Barbora Seemanova of Czechia. Snaefridur Sol Jorunnaarsdottir was third in 1:57.87, with Nicole Maier fourth and Janja Segal fifth.

Men’s 200 backstroke

Oleksandr Zheltiakov roared home to not only win a European title for Ukraine but to set the second-fastest time in the world this year in the 200 back He went 1:55.39, just .09 behind the world-leading time of Hugo Gonzalez from the 2024 World Championships.

It was a thriller of a finale. Zheltiakov was third after 150 meters but split 28.65 coming home to get to the wall first. That spoiled the party for Apostolos Siskos of Greece, who went 1:55.42. Roman Mityukov, owner of the second-fastest time in the world coming into the meet, was third in 1:55.75.

It’s an emotional win for Zheltiakov, given the conditions the native of Dnipro has lived under during the Russian invasion for the last two years.

“This means so much for me and for my family,” he told European Aquatics. “… Over the past months, I trained in Dnipro, under rocket launches and constant threats … Honestly, can’t really describe with words how happy I am now.”

Benedek Kovacs of Hungary finished fourth in 1:56.13, with a gap of more than a second back to the field.

Women’s 50 butterfly

Sara Junevik bossed her way to a European gold medal in 25.68 seconds, four tenths up on the field. Roos Vanotterdijk finished second for Belgium in 26.08, with Greece’s Anna Ntountounaki third. Spots three through seven were separated by just eight hundredths.

Men’s 100 freestyle

There probably wasn’t much chance of it, but in case anyone was going to forget about David Popovici at Paris, he offered a reminder Wednesday of the perils of that.

Popovici went the third-fastest time in history in 46.88, trailing only his European record of 46.86 and the world record of Pan Zhanle (46.80). Popovici was out in 22.79, which put him second, then came back in a crazy 24.09.

Popovici was driven, in part, to the quest to get his record back.

“I just got really close when I wasn’t really expecting it but I guess I’ve got to just trust myself more,” he said. “So, yeah, getting close to it and when I found out that it had been lowered, at first I was a little taken aback but then it got me very hyped and eager to try and get as close to it as possible, maybe lower it in the future.

“It’s good being more of an underdog than before even I am though one of the favourites in the world: I am not the first one, not the fastest one, so that really motivates me.”

He was six tenths up on Nandor Nemeth, who was out first. The Hungarian earned silver in 47.49. Andrej Barna took bronze in 47.66, holding off the efforts of Danas Rapsys and Jere Hribar. Kristof Milak turned in a solid swim of 48.41 for sixth.

Popovici’s swim adds to a massing at the gate of sprinters ready for the 100 free. Pan has been great this year, and Jack Alexy hit a 47.08 in morning prelims at U.S. Olympic Trials on Tuesday. Alexy will contest the final Wednesday night with Pan’s time in his sights. Popovici, for one, will be watching.

“Good luck to the Americans in the final,” Popovici said. “… Of course everyone has been watching it, and we are all glued to the screens. And in Paris we are all going to meet and it is going to be beautiful.”

Women’s 100 breaststroke

Eneli Jefimova is just 17 years old, but she’s now got a long-course gold in the 100 breast to match her win from the short-course meet in 2023. The Estonian teen went 1:06.41 to easily outpace the field, three-quarters of a second ahead of Lisa Mamie of Switzerland, who got silver in 1:07.15. No one else was within 1.3 seconds of Jefimova.

Olivia Klint won a pitched battle for bronze, the Swede rallying past Poland’s Dominika Sztandera, who had been second at the wall, for bronze by .02 in 1:07.73.

Men’s 100 butterfly semifinals

A studded final got a little less illustrious with the withdrawal of top seed Noe Ponti due to illness. But the times are still fast.

It took sub-52 to make the final, led by Hubert Kos in 51.31. The Hungarians have a chance of a 1-2 result, with Kristof Milak second in 51.57 and looking in fine form. In between them is Austrian Simon Bucher, who went 51.45.

Jakub Majerski of Poland is fourth in 51.62. His countryman Adrian Jaskiewicz grabbed the final spot in the final at the expense of Gal Groumi and Casper Puggaard.

Women’s 50 backstroke semifinal

Danielle Hill of Ireland leads the way with a time of 27.67 seconds. Second is Greece’s Theodora Drakou in 27.99, .09 up on Fanny Teijonsalo of Finland in third.

Men’s 200 breaststroke semifinal

Anton McKee of Iceland is the top seed in the men’s 200 breast, having turned in a quick 2:10.14. That puts him ahead of Poland’s Jan Kalusowski by two tenths, with Lyubomir Epitropov also in 2:10.3. Sweden’s Erik Persson joined him in the under-2:11 club to take fourth.

Women’s 400 individual medley

Israel’s Anastasia Gorbenko added another win to her resume, to augment two 200 IM titles. She handled the field with a time of 4:36.05, nearly three seconds clear of Vivien Jackl of Hungary. Gorbenko trailed her briefly around the 200-meter mark, but she assumed control in breaststroke with splits of 38.69 and 38.94, two of the three sub-40 swims in the field.

Jackl was second in 4:38.96, which is a B cut for the Hungarian. She was ahead of Zsuzsanna Jakabos’s 4:40.24, both vying for a chance to swim in Paris with Katinka Hosszu, who opted for Sette Colli instead.

Men’s 800 freestyle

For the sixth time in his career, Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk is a European Champion.

Romanchuk went 7:46.20 in the final to win by nearly two and a half seconds, taking control early and sailing away. It is the sixth gold for Romanchuk, who won the 1,500 in both Rome in 2022 and Budapest in 2020. He won the 800 in 2018 and 2020 after taking bronze in London in 2016.

The two-time Olympic medalist went to the lead for good on the sixth 50. He churned out nothing slower than 29.3 for the last half of the race to end up well ahead of Greece’s Dimitrios Markos. He grabbed silver in 7:48.59. The top five times were under the A cut.

Hungary’s Zalan Sarkany was third in 7:49.29, just rallying to bronze in the final 50. That came at the expense of 200 back Worlds silver medalist Krzysztof Chmielewski, who went 7:49.44. Fifth was Norway’s Henrik Christiansen in 7:50.88.

Women’s 400 freestyle relay

Hungary wrapped up the day with a win in the 400 free, the quartet of Petra Senanszky, Minna Abraham, Panna Ugrai and Nikolett Padar winning in 3:36.77. They were ahead from the time Abraham took over on, overtaking Denmark by a margin that stretched out to 1.71 seconds.

The Danes were second – Elisabeth Sabroe Ebbesen, Signe Bro, Julie Kepp Jensen and Schastine Tabor going 3:38.49. Poland edged Israel for bronze, with Aleksandra Polanska rallying on the anchor leg.

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1 month ago

Insane second split.

1 month ago

Fantastic to see David “Pop” one off!
Really hoping he can win Gold and break the WR at Paris. If Australia’s King Kyle can’t! Realistically I hope Kyle can get Bronze, it’d round out his Olympic 100m freestyle cabinet!

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