World Championships: David Popovici Adds 100 Freestyle Title in Thrilling Race

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Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

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World Championships: David Popovici Adds 100 Free Title in Thrilling Race

David Popovici’s World Championships just keep on getting better, but he had to work hard for the latest piece of hardware Wednesday night.

The Romanian wunderkind surged on the final 50 meters to claim the 100 freestyle title at the 2022 World Championships in Budapest, winning a scintillating race in which the top three finishers were separated by 0.13 seconds.

Popovici clocked in at 47.58 seconds, behind the 47.13 world junior record he set in semis. It means Cesar Cielo’s world record will survive another day.

Second was Maxime Grousset of France, who was in the lead for most of the final 50 but was nipped in the final 10 meters by Popovici. Grousset was second in 47.64. Third was Joshua Liendo of Canada in 47.71. The leader at the midway point, it’s the young Canadian’s first senior medal.

Popovici already signaled his ascendancy by winning the 200 free title in Budapest. With a pair of world junior records to his name, the only quest left was to see if he could take down a senior world record. In his two specialties, he’s chasing long-hallowed, super-suited marks from 2009 – Cielo in the 100 free, Paul Biedermann in the 200 free. Popovici had set the pace in semis, lowering his world junior record to 47.13.

The final came with the caveat that is the absence of Caeleb Dressel, the reigning Olympic champ and two-time reigning world champion, who withdrew from the event and then the meet on Wednesday. Popovici certainly would’ve preferred the chance to race him.

“It’s sort of a shame that they weren’t here as well,” he said. “I’m sure they have their reasons. Some medical, some not. I miss the presence of Kyle (Chalmers), Caeleb and Kliment (Kolesnikov). I can’t wait to race against them. And I think it’s an honor in itself to race against them. I think it’s a better challenge, and I like a bigger challenge.”

Popovici is the first man to do the 100-200 free double since the very first Worlds, when American Jim Montgomery pulled the trick in Belgrade in 1973.

Grousset picked up his second career Worlds medal, adding to the mixed free relay bronze from Gwangju in 2019.

“It’s fantastic,” Grousset said. “For me, it’s the beginning of a dream. I think I can be first, I can win a gold medal.”

China’s Zhanle Pan surged from seventh at the 50-meter mark to fourth in 47.79. The lone American in the final, Brooks Curry, acquitted himself well in 48.00 for fifth. Nandor Nemeth took home sixth in 48.13, with new British record holder Lewis Burras and Italian Alessandro Miressi rounding out the field.

All eight finalists were 23 years or younger, a rarity for the men’s sprint field.

“I like to think it’s sort of a new age of newcomers,” Popovici said. “And I feel like we young ones have got to represent and try to change the sport as much as we can because 10, 15 years ago those who are considered to be in prime age. And that was, I don’t know, 20, 24 years old. But it’s just a matter of proof that age doesn’t really matter. It matters how much you work.

“I know that’s basic, but it’s basically what it is. It’s a matter of how much you work and how hungry you are for a medal, how hungry are for success, how passionate you are and how much sacrifices you’re willing to make. And if you’re willing to do that at 15, like Summer (McIntosh), or, or 17, like me or, I don’t know, 42 to look at Nicholas Santos is amazing and we are at opposite ages in terms of swimming careers.”

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Lucian
4 days ago

A star is born: David Popovici. As he well said a few minutes ago during the interview given to TVR ‘it’s about trusting your gut, going with what feels right, and not overthinking’.
Sometimes, the risk is just allowing yourself to put trust in someone else.

He’s just 17yo – the future is bright! Those remaining WR -100/200m- will not stay put for long time.

Spoiler: Bravo David, fă-ne mândri!

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Dan
3 days ago

Fantastic young athlete! Will see a lot more of him, that’s certain!

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