Double world champion in the 100 and 200 meter freestyle in Budapest last month, David Popovici (17) is the only swimmer in history to have achieved this double in the world championships, together with the American Jim Montgomery in 1973. He qualified for the final of the 100 meters on Friday, he approached the world record by seven hundredths.
This is the new phenomenon of world swimming: David Popovici, 17 years old (he will turn 18 in September) and already two-time world champion in the 100 and 200 meters a month ago in Budapest. The only swimmer in history to have achieved this double in the world championships with the American Jim Montgomery in 1973. After having followed the European junior championships at home, the swimmer from Bucharest impressed in the 100 m nl heats of the European Championships. in Rome this Friday, in 47″20, seven hundredths of his junior world record… And not far from the world record achieved in 2009 in the same pool at the Foro Italico in Rome by Cesar Cielo, with 46″91, while he was wearing his polyurethane suit.
Popovici lives and trains in Romania, managed by 32-year-old Andrea Radulescu. With his star face, the Romanian impresses, and not only in the basin. And we wish the boy, passionate about philosophy, a future made up of mythical world records: that of Cesar Cielo’s 100 meters, therefore, and that of Paul Biedermann in the 200 metres, also beaten in the era of magical combinations in this swimming. swimming pool in Rome (1’42 “00). Discovery of the one who already has everything of a great, in the company of his coach.
His beginnings in swimming
David Popovici: From a sporting point of view and from a professional point of view, I think I will always stay in Romania because I have my team there, a team without which I could not do anything. This is the priority for me, this is the reason for my success and this is why I need to stay in Romania and work with my team. But who knows, after my swimming career, I might want to live here or on another continent. I really don’t know, I’ll think about it in a few years.
Adrian Radulescu (his coach): We had a lot of talented swimmers. Some were focused on training, others on fun. It took time for him to see that he could focus on training and progress. He must have been 10 or 11 years old when he realized what he was. We were training, he must be ten years old, we are organizing a competition for swimmers of the same age. He was the thinnest. 25 meter swim and the last one was eliminated. Two guys were better than him, we started the game. Each time, David finished second to last. Opposite they wanted to show that they were good, they got tired. In the final, the last one had no more energy, he was so tired that David won. He already had the intelligence and the talent.
Your sacrifices to succeed
David Popovici: Erling Haaland, the football player, was asked the same question after a big match and after blowing up like I did. He didn’t know how to speak English very well at the time but he summed it up very well and expressed it by saying “work, hard work” (he takes on a voice to imitate Haaland). It really is that, a lot of work, a lot of effort, a lot of sacrifice and it’s really a matter of how hungry you are. And I am very hungry. Sport is fun. Getting very tired, almost throwing up, having lactates all over your body, blood rising to your head… It’s fun! Finally for me. So it’s not fun at the time, but after 30 minutes you don’t want to kill yourself anymore, it’s fun. And you tell yourself it’s worth it. Sacrifice for me is a difficult way to live. A life where I have to get up early in the morning, train even if I don’t feel like it, where I have to push my limits. It’s just what you want to do that others won’t. And that leads to living in a totally different way, for example in terms of food, sleep, parties… You can’t do things that others do. But I don’t care. Maybe I’d like to go to a party but the next day I have a practice at 6 or 7 in the morning. But I remember why I do this. And I return to my life as an ascetic.
Adrian Radulescu: He is ready to listen. But he needs information, arguments. It means that over time he has acquired a lot of knowledge about swimming. He was ready to understand swimming from the start. When he was 13 or 14 years old, I lent him documents about what it was like to swim, to train. But he not only has a global vision, he is focused on his sensations, on his tiredness, on the technique… I imagine that not everyone can do that. He is also willing to make the sacrifices necessary for any professional athlete. He plans outings, vacations, family, always keeping in mind the program of competitions. When he leaves, he is always the first to enter, he is one of those who asks the guy who organizes to advance the afternoon time to stay a little longer. He has personal goals for himself, but he thinks of others, bigger. It’s not just about winning medals, it’s about becoming an inspiration to other swimmers and trying your hand at it.
David Popovici: It’s exhausting, it’s harder than swimming. But how do I handle it? I just don’t know… (composes herself) I’m not talking about these kinds of meetings (laughs). I ignore it in the sense that I never see an interview of mine, I don’t see myself on television and if I find it I turn it off. I took a break from social media. If there weren’t people who recognize me on the street or exchange moments like today with journalists, I wouldn’t realize that I am very famous in Romania and in the world of swimming. It’s weird because if I want to walk down a street with people, I have to get ready to take pictures. But it’s ok, it goes successfully. I like the fact that people like me. But if I have to go somewhere, I go by bike or wear a hat, sunglasses and a mask. It changed a lot after the world championships. I was a little known in Romania, like 3 or 4 people out of 10 could recognize me… But today it’s 10 out of 10! On the street or in the restaurant… Everywhere.
Adrian Radulescu: This is indeed a huge boost in its popularity. Everyone on the street recognizes him. But there are also moments of great emotion, like two days ago, when we arrived. There were workers working on the roof above the grandstand. For a moment, everyone was silent, and one of the guys, who was working by the pool, said, “It’s David! It’s David! Please win the medal. We want to be there when you win it.” They were Romanian. Meetings like this are very encouraging…
Comparison with Popov
David Popovici: Popov was something of a pioneer in the world of swimming. The first to swim under 22″ in 50m, he was also an amazing 100m swimmer. And then there’s the similarity of the Popov-Popovici name that helps in the comparison. It’s an honor to be compared to him, but I’ve also been compared to Ian Thorpe, Michael Phelps, and all the other superlative names. I like all of them, but I don’t think they represent me as any comparison. I’d like to focus on myself and be the first David Popovici.
Adrian Radulescu: Obviously I tried to get as much information as possible about Gennadi Touretsky, his vision of swimming. Of course, the names are similar, there are similarities in his technique, but this is not justified. I think there is more Michael Phelps freestyle in David. But there are many athletes with whom we can compare him.
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