ROME (AP) — Romanian David Popovici, 17, became the youngest swimmer to break the world swimming record in the 100-meter freestyle on Saturday, beating the mark set more than 13 years ago in the same pool.
Popovici touched in 46.86 seconds at the European Championships to surpass the 46.91 time set by Brazilian César Cielo at the 2009 World Championships, also held at Rome’s historic Foro Italico.
Cielo set its record on July 30, 2009, during the last major international meeting allowing rubber suits. It has stood longer than any record in the event’s history, dating back to 1905.
Now he belongs to one of the rising stars of the sport.
“There was no rush and I had to be extremely patient for the world record,” Popovici said. “It hurt but it’s still worth it and I feel good right now. It was great and it’s very special to break this record which was set here in 2009 by César Cielo.
Cielo still holds the 50 freestyle record, which is one of eight long-course men’s standards surviving from the rubber suit era. Five of them were set during those Supercharged 2009 World Championships.
Popovici came out in 22.74 and set the record clocking 24.12 on the return lap to easily beat Hungarian butterfly specialist Kristóf Milák by 0.61. Italian Alessandro Miressi took bronze in 47.63.
“It was a brilliant race, a joy to swim alongside David,” said Milák. “David is a fantastic swimmer, I think the same mad genius in freestyle as I am in butterfly. It’s great that his name is in the headlines for many, many years.
Popovici’s emergence sets up a potentially huge showdown at the Paris Olympics in 2024, where American star Caeleb Dressel – winner of five gold medals at the Tokyo Games last summer – will enter as the gold medalist. gold title in the 100 freestyle.
Popovic came out at this year’s world championships in Budapest, winning gold in the 100 and 200 freestyle. He didn’t get a chance to swim the 100m against Dressel, who dropped out for health reasons before the final.
Milák, the 200m butterfly world record holder, also hopes to be part of the freestyle mix in Paris.
“My goal is very clear,” said the Hungarian. “I just want to reach a level in this event to arrive at Paris 2024 with the ability to swim a time very close to 47 seconds.”
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