WorldAt 17, David Popovici is already a new phenomenon...

At 17, David Popovici is already a new phenomenon in the world of swimming


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100m freestyle champion, then 200m champion David Popovici, 17, splash the European swimming championship with his talent. Which foreshadows the extraordinary career of the Romanian prodigy.

Where will David Popovici stay? The question arises when a 17-year-old miracle from Romania demonstrates at the European Swimming Championships in Rome. On Monday, August 15, he became the European 200m freestyle champion (1’42”97), but also the third best player of all time at this distance.

In the history of swimming, only two have beaten him faster than he by two hectometers: Paul Biedermann, who set a record in 2009 (1’42”00) when wetsuit was allowed, and American legend Michael Phelps, too little hundredth (1’42”96).

Asked earlier this week about the possibility of approaching the German swimmer’s world record set in the same Foro Italico pool, the philosopher Popovici replied: “Paul is human, he was human when he broke the record, and we are all human. I think it’s that simple.

He started his weekend just like that: the 100m title and, above all, the world record distance. Popovici thus improved by five hundredths the Brazilian César Cielo’s 2009 rating, swimming both ways in 46 “86.

The former idler has become an ascetic

David Popovici was born in Romania in 2004 when Michael Phelps made his debut at the Olympics in Greece. His parents introduced him to swimming on the advice of a doctor, primarily to correct problems with scoliosis.

His talent quickly becomes apparent. Then he joined the club Adrian Radulescu, who to this day calls “Mr. Adri “. A trainer with whom he establishes a close relationship.

The trainer ensures that his foal has legs – and arms – and a head to win. He tells this anecdote: “We were training, he must have been ten, we organized a competition with swimmers of the same age. Twenty-five meters to swim and the latter was gone. Two boys were better than him, we started the game. Each time, David was second to last. At the front, they wanted to prove that they were good and tired. In the final, the last one had no energy and David won. So at the age of ten, he already had the intelligence and talent. “

“He wasn’t easy to train, but he had something special about him: a competitive spirit, in addition to intelligence and talent. When he wanted to, he moved incredibly fast for a little self-training,” recalls his coach at L’Équipe. . “Minimum effort for maximum impact. It was truly a challenge to be successful in instilling this competitive spirit to get him to agree to work. “

Yesterday’s dilettante has become an outstanding competitor. “I broke my first national record at the age of ten. Then I became addicted to the feeling of being on top of the podium, ”he said in an interview with the International Federation.

The life of a top swimmer is like priesthood. You have to be in the pool in the morning, work until you are exhausted, never go out in the evening. Far from the life of a normal teenager. More than one athlete burned there, such as Laure Manaudou and Ian Thorpe, who announced their first retirement from the sport at the age of 22 and 23. David Popovici seems to relish the life of a monk that belongs to him, assuring him that “Lord Adri” has shown him that swimming is “pleasure”.

In Tokyo, dedicated to Budapest

Already in Rome, during the European Junior Championships in 2021, he sends the first message to a floating planet. He breaks the junior world record in 100 m with 47 “30. It is also the best world performance of the year, the hundredth before 47” 31 by Kliment Kolesnikov.

Popovici confirms a few weeks later. The youngest member of the Romanian delegation to the Olympic Games in Tokyo is missing the first Olympic medal: two hundredths separate him from the bronze in the 200 m freestyle final. Everyone will now be keeping an eye on the prodigy that hasn’t even finished growing.

>> Read also: Swimming: Caeleb Dressel and Emma McKeon, the queen and queen of the Olympic swimming pools

It’s over when he comes to the World Cup in Budapest. David Popovici impresses with his endless arms, a wingspan of 2.05 m and 90 m by 80 kg. He managed to achieve a 100m / 200m doublet, a result so far only achieved by the American Jim Montgomery in 1973. Certainly Caeleb Dressel, the most dominant swimmer at the moment, was absent, but the feat is remarkable. Thus, he confirmed his domination at home, in Bucharest, at the European Junior Championships, winning three titles (50 m / 100 m / 200 m freestyle).

Impressed by his Olympic performances, several American universities offered him to come and train with them. But unlike another child prodigy, Frenchman Léon Marchand, who went to train in Arizona, prefers to stay in Romania alongside his longtime coach Adrian Radulescu.

A little cheeky David Popovici assures that his crazy summer is not over yet. From Wednesday, he will queue up to the 400m series, a distance that exercises less. He will then fly to Lima, Peru, to compete in the World Junior Championship, where it’s hard to see who could challenge his dominance.

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