As David Popovic sped past his biggest rivals in the winter pool, the lanky 17-year-old’s world record threat seemed inevitable, the only surprise being that he broke the 100m freestyle mark in Rome on Saturday. Very quickly.
On Friday, the Romanian became only the fourth person in history to swim under 47 seconds by winning the semi-finals at the European Championships in Rome.
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That was more than half a second faster than his gold medal time at the world championships in June.
On Saturday, he swam 46.86 seconds, 0.05 seconds off the record set by Brazil’s Cesar Cielo at the 2009 world championships, also in Rome during the buoyant bodysuit era.
“Yesterday I said the European record was just a step in the right direction – and I was right. There was no rush and I had to be extremely patient about the world record,” he said after the victory.
At the world championships in Budapest, Popovici beat Caleb Dressel, who swam the fastest 100m breaststroke in his heat.
The semi-finals of the Olympic champion were not held.
“It’s good to be able to say that I’m faster than I’ve ever been and it’s good to know that I’m up against all the titans of this race.”
Coach Adrian Radulescu said he was surprised by the speed of Popovic’s progress.
“It’s amazing that it happened so early,” said Radulescu, 32.
When asked Thursday what makes him successful, Popovich admitted that success comes at a price.
When asked the same question, soccer player Erling Haaland replied, “Work hard.” So this is a lot of hard work and a lot of sacrifice and it all comes down to how much you want it. he And I want it really, really bad! ”
“What are you willing to do so that others do not? This includes living a completely different lifestyle.
This summer, Popovic dominated the World Championships and European Junior Championships in his hometown of Bucharest.
After Rome, he plans to head to the World Junior Championships in Lima
“Of course, all I want to get out of this meeting and the teenagers of the world in Peru is to have fun. The medals, the records, everything, the good times are simply a bonus. “If we can have fun, that’s very satisfying,” he said.
Not everyone can share their opinion about entertainment.
“Everything is fun in sports. I was getting really tired and then wanted to vomit,” he said.
“Having all kinds of lactate problems is… good. It’s not fun at the time, but after half an hour you don’t want to kill yourself and you’ll feel that it’s worth it.
Popovici was nine when he joined the swimming club coached by Radulescu.
“He wasn’t the easiest to train, he mostly had fun, he wanted to jump the turns… but there was something special about him, he was very competitive.”
The coach said, “He must have been ten years old. We were organizing a competition for swimmers of the same age.”
“25 meters of swimming and the last one was removed… Each time David finished second in the end. Before him, they wanted to prove that they were good, they were tired. In the final race, the other survivor was too tired, so David won.
Popovich is unusually thin for a swimmer.
“David has a deep sense of water,” Radulescu said.
“It’s not how much power you can generate, but how you can put it into the speed you develop. So, yes, it’s very thin, but it’s strong enough to swim at high speeds.
But, he added, coach, Popovich’s body will change.
“He will be 18 in September, his body will grow, he will become a man. It’s a challenge to find the right balance between strength and efficiency.
Popovic already has a nickname: ‘The Magician’.
“When I was young I was very into magic, card tricks and illusions and stuff, but not anymore. It was a little pastime before swimming,” he explained.
But yeah, some people have called me a magician because of what I do in the pool but again, I don’t think it represents me. I like to think of myself as a normal person who can swim fast.”