David Popovici, a 17-year-old Romanian known as the Chlorine Daddy, became the youngest male swimmer to break an individual world record since Michael Phelps.
Popovici lowered a 13-year-old record in the 100m freestyle, arguably the trademark event in the sport, to 46.86 seconds at the European Championships in Rome on Saturday.
He broke the mark of 46.91 set by Brazilian Cesar Cielo at the 2009 World Championships at the peak of the since-banned high-tech swimsuit era, at the same pool at the Foro Italico. Popovici became the second-youngest man to hold the world record in the event after American Andy Coan, who held it for 20 days at age 17 in 1975.
“It [the world record] wasn’t the priority, that’s for sure,” Popovici told European Aquatics. “There was no rush, and I had to be extremely patient about the world record.”
Popovici, who turns 18 on Sept. 15, became the youngest man to break an individual world record in an Olympic swimming event since Phelps set the fourth of his 29 individual records in 2003, according to Gracenote.
Then on Monday, Popovici won the 200m free in 1:42.97, the fourth-fastest time in history and fastest ever outside of the since-banned suit era.
Popovici made his first big splash last year, dropping his 100m free personal best by 1.96 seconds and swimming a time that would have won the 2016 Olympics. He missed a Tokyo Olympic medal in the 200m free by two hundredths of a second while lowering his personal best by .58.
At June’s world championships in Budapest, he became the youngest man to win a world title in 15 years and the first man or woman to sweep the 100m and 200m frees at a worlds since the first edition in 1973.
After winning the 200m free at worlds in 1:43.21, a world junior record and the world’s best time for any age in 10 years, he was expected to have a showdown with Olympic gold medalist Caeleb Dressel in the 100m free until Dressel withdrew from the meet on unspecified medical grounds.
Also Saturday, Hungarian Kristof Milak took silver behind Popovici’s world record in 47.47 seconds, a time that would have also taken silver at worlds. Milak is the Olympic and world champion and world record holder in the 200m butterfly and world champion in the 100m fly, where Dressel holds the world record and Olympic title.
“My goal is very clear: I just want to reach a level in this event to arrive to Paris 2024 with the capability of swimming a time somewhere very close to 47 [seconds],” Milak said, according to FINA.
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