Trois choses à savoir sur le Roumain David Popovici, nouveau recordman du monde du 100 m nage libre – Edition du soir Ouest-France – 16/08/2022

Trois choses à savoir sur le Roumain David Popovici, nouveau recordman du monde du 100 m nage libre - Edition du soir Ouest-France - 16/08/2022

The Romanian David Popovici, 17 years old, squandered his talent in the Rome basin, during the European Championship. He first breaking the world record in the 100m freestyle (46”86), then posting the third best performance of all time in the 200m freestyle afterwards (1’42”97).

The Emperor’s greeting. After another resounding victory in the 200m freestyle on Monday at the European Swimming Championships in Rome, 17-year-old Romanian swimmer David Popovici emerged from the pool and bowed to greet the crowd. As if he hadn’t just set an extraordinary time for his age: with a time of 1’42”97, he achieved the third performance of all time in the distance. Only German Paul Biedermann (1’42”00 in 2009 in the same pool) and American legend Michael Phelps (1’42”96 at the 2008 Olympics) have done better.

“I didn’t really have time in mind, the only advice my coach gave me was ‘Do something crazy.’ I think what I’ve done is pretty crazy right now.”, the calm and relaxed young man confided in a press conference. However, the athlete exploded on the international scene recently. Here are three things to know about swimming’s new nugget.

1. Promising beginnings

Four years. This is the age at which David Popovici made his first strokes (or rather front crawl movements). His parents had enrolled him in a club in the capital, Bucharest, to correct his scoliosis. Basically, he swims from flying to the skies of world swimming. The boy progressed very quickly and joined the group of Adrian Radulescu.

The rise, then, is dazzling: at the age of 10 he set his first national record in the 50-meter backstroke, held until then by Dragos Coman, world bronze medalist in 2003 in the 400-meter freestyle. “I broke the first national record at the age of tenthe young swimmer tells the International Swimming Federation (Fina). Since then, I have become addicted to the feeling of being on top of the podium. »
At the age of 14, David Popovici set an impressive time in the 100m freestyle: 49.82 during the European Youth Olympic Festival. During the 2021 European Junior Championships, David Popovici made a name for himself by winning the 50m and 100m freestyle, setting a junior world record (47”30) and also winning the 200m freestyle.

2. A double at the World Cup… that hasn’t happened since 1973

Overtaken by the clubs of CSA Steaua (Romania), New York Breakers in the United States (2021), the swimmer (wingspan 2.05m) is now licensed to Dinamo Bucharest. He studied at an international school and speaks perfect English. At the edge of the swimming pools, his Olympic calm can be disconcerting: he gladly defends Stoicism, a school of Greek philosophy that advocates wisdom and acceptance of things as they happen.
In 2021, David Popovici qualifies for his first Olympic Games. In Tokyo, the prodigy is already entering a new dimension: 40th in the 50m freestyle heat (22”77), he reaches the final of the queen distance and is in 7th place (48”04). His best performance was in the 200m freestyle: he failed at the foot of the podium, setting a new national record for passes (1’44”68). At 16, he misses the Olympic bronze by just two hundredths.

After Tokyo, he turned down offers from American universities and continued his training in Romania. Less than a year later, David Popovici returns to the Duna Arena in Budapest for the World Cup. And he achieves the double 100-200 m freestyle, which only the American Jim Montgomery had achieved before him in 1973.

In the 100 free meters he won in 47”58, six hundredths better than the silver medalist, Frenchman Maxime Grousset. In the 200m free, he set a new junior world record at 1’43”21.

Also read: 2022 Swimming World Championships. Maxime Grousset, the new face of the French sprint

3. The 100m freestyle world record broken at the European Championships

Less than two months later, the Romanian moved on to the European Championships in Rome. The approach of the two competitions, due to the pandemic, could have exhausted him. Nope! David Popovici impresses in the 100m freestyle heats and semi-finals. Before winning the reigning distance and breaking the world record: in 46”86, he put an end to the thirteen-year reign of Brazilian César Cielo (46”91). In 2009, César Cielo became the first man to break the mythical bar of 47 seconds, wearing a polyurethane suit.

The fallen Brazilian congratulated the prodigy on social media. “I knew this day would come… And it did! My world record was broken after 13 years! Congratulations Popovici »he wrote on Twitter, accompanying his message with a video.

Like the British brewer Adam Peaty: “A phenomenal world record at 17 years old. David is very mature for his age and shows that you should never put up barriers, no matter how old you are. Excited to see how far he can go! »

Proof that David Popovici has already taken his place in the small world of swimming pools. “I haven’t been on social media. […] I really don’t know what impact I’m having in Romania at the moment or in the world of swimming, I just see what’s around me.”he affirmed, however, with a disconcerting maturity. But after a while, being online, I’ll see the impact I’ve had and I’m excited to find out. »
Two days after this coronation and this world record, the swimmer continued with a second crown in the 200 m freestyle. His victory in 1’42”97 is the fastest 200m in textile history, even faster than Yannick Agnel’s 1’43”14 for his Olympic title in 2012. With the added advantage of a new record for the junior world at stake.

Could one day break Paul Biedermann’s record? “Paul is human, he was human when he broke the record, and we are all human. I think he is as simple as that.”he replied, still just as philosophical.

The young athlete will participate in the 400m freestyle series on Wednesday. Located in the first series (of five, the weakest), David Popovici is far from being the favorite. “It is the strangest race that I am going to do here because I have no experience. I only swam it three times in my life and it was in small meetings. But it’s a good place to start and see if I’m good or not.”confided the main interested party.
Who knows, the one we call the Wizard, still inexperienced, might still surprise us.

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