2022 European Championships: The Popo Show Readies For Men’s 100 & 200 Free


With the nation of Russia banned from the 2022 European Championships, we know that the men’s 100m and 200m freestyle podiums will indeed look different from last year. Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at the frontrunners across the men’s freestyle sprint events headed to Rome.

Note that men’s 100 freestyle favorite Popovici is taking on a new challenge, in the 400 free, which he hasn’t swum at a serious meet since 2019 and that he’s never swum in a major international championship. That could drag focus away from his 100 free, but also gives him a new challenge.

Men’s 50 Freestyle

  • World Record: 20.91, Cesar Cielo (BRA) – 2009
  • European Record: 20.94, Fred Bousquet (FRA) – 2009
  • European Championship Record: 21.11, Ben Proud (GBR) – 2018
  • 2020 European Champion: Ari-Pekka Liukkonen (FIN), 21.61

The men’s 50m freestyle European champion from last year was somewhat surprisingly Ari-Pekka Liukkonen of Finland.

Entering last year’s competition, Liukkonen had never before won an elite international gold medal, with his highest previous finish represented by the 50m free bronze earned at the 2014 edition of the European Championships.

The now-33-year-old took the gold last year in a time of 21.61, just .03 outside of his lifetime best of 21.58 from 2017. However, if his rivals are on their game, a time in the 21-high zone most likely won’t be enough to get to the wall first.

Ben Proud of Great Britain is about to attack his 3rd elite championships meet of the summer, having already raced at the World Championships and the just-concluded Commonwealth Games.

Proud punched a time of 21.32 at the former and 21.36 at the latter to set himself apart from the field with gold in each race. Therefore, the 27-year-old will be on a mission to complete his trifecta of titles.

Possibly getting in the way could be the bronze medalist at this year’s World Championships, Frenchman Maxime Grousset. In Budapest, Grousset clocked a time of 21.57 to wind up on the podium with a new lifetime best.

Also in the mix is Dutch ace Thom De Boer, who has been consistent in his 50m freestyle swimming, putting up the fastest marks of his career just in the past 2 years. He was a finalist at the 2020 Olympic Games, placing 8th.

The 30-year-old Olympic finalist shows no signs of slowing down, owning a PB of 21.58 from just last summer.

SwimSwam Picks

1 Ben Proud GBR 21.32 21.11
2 Maxime Grousset FRA 21.57 21.57
3 Thom De Boer NED 21.70 21.58
4 Szebasztian Szabo HUN 21.60 21.60
5 Kristian Gkolomeev GRE 21.80 21.44

Men’s 100 Freestyle

  • World Record: 46.91, Cesar Cielo (BRA) – 2009
  • European Record: 47.12, Alain Bernard (FRA) – 2009
  • European Championship Record: 47.37, Kliment Kolesnikov (RUS), 2021
  • 2020 European Champion: Kliment Kolesnikov (RUS), 2021

When it comes to the men’s 100m freestyle field for these European Championships, there is 17-year-old David Popovici of Romania….and then there is everyone else.

The teen phenom crushed a monster time of 47.13 in the semi-final of the event at this year’s World Championships, establishing a near-immortal World Junior Record. His result rendered Popovici as the 9th fastest man in history en route to gold.

But Popovici also put up impressive efforts at the European Junior Championships, ripping a winning time of 47.69 to beat the next closest swimmer, Jacob Whittle of Great Britain, by nearly one second.

Most of Popovici’s top competition globally won’t be at this meet. Caeleb Dressel (US) and Kyle Chalmers (Australia) live on the wrong continent, and Kliment Kolesnikov (Russia) is barred from competing because of his country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Among the racers here in Rome, the next-closest competitor is represented by Grousset, with the Frenchman owning a season-best 47.54 while his career-quickest stands at the 47.52 logged at the Olympic Games.

Dropping time in this men’s 1free most recently is reigning 200m free Olympic champion Tom Dean of Great Britain. The 22-year-old dipped under the 48-second barrier for the first time ever in Birmingham, snagging Commonwealth Games silver in 47.89 behind winner Kyle Chalmers of Australia.

Italy will have a pair of weapons here in national record holder Alessandro Miressi and rising star Lorenzo Zazzeri. The former posted the current 47.45 Italian standard at this competition last year, while Zazzeri hit 47.96 at this year’s World Championships.

SwimSwam Picks

1 David Popovici ROU 47.13 47.13
2 Maxime Grousset FRA 47.54 47.52
3 Alessandro Miressi ITA 47.88 47.45
4 Lorenzo Zazzeri ITA 47.96 47.96
5 Andrej Barna SRB 47.97 47.97

Men’s 200 Freestyle

The ‘Popo Show’ continues in the men’s 200m free, with the Romanian rocket owning the fastest time in the world at 1:43.21. That time was produced en route to Popovici claiming his 2nd world title this year in Budapest and his performance also established another seemingly untouchable World Junior Record.

The next closest man within the realm of Popovici is reigning Olympic champion Dean. Dean logged a time of 1:44.98 to grab bronze behind Popo and Korea’s Hwang Sunwoo at the World Championships and also captured silver in 1:45.41 at this year’s Commonwealth Games.

Without his British partner-in-crime, Commonwealth Games gold medalist and Olympic silver medalist Duncan Scott competing here, the silver looks to be a lock for Dean.

The race truly will be for bronze, with a pack of talent putting their hats in the ring from Austria, Germany, Italy and Lithuania.

Although he didn’t take home 200m free hardware from Budapest, Germany’s 20-year-old Lukas Maartens did nab 400m free silver there and also ranks as the 4th fastest 2free swimmer this season with a lifetime best of 1:45.44.

Seasoned competitor Danas Rapsys will be looking to improve upon his 4th place finish from this same competition last year, while Austrian Felix Auboeck will also be in the mix with a season-best of 1:45.11.

SwimSwam Picks

1 David Popovici ROU 1:43.21 1:43.21
2 Tom Dean GBR 1:44.98 1:44.22
3 Felix Auboeck AUT 1:45.11 1:45.11
4 Lukas Martens GER 1:45.44 1:45.44
5 Danas Rapsys LTU 1:46.43 1:44.38

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7 months ago

one “bada$$” title!

7 months ago

No mention of Nemeth? He swam 47,63 at WC and won the swim-off over Zazzerie.

Pavid Dopovici
7 months ago

1.42.9 incoming

7 months ago

I love the fact that everyone sleeps on Milak here. 🙂

A couple of days ago Milak’s coach said the following to the Hungarian press:

“His training has changed a bit after Worlds, we put more emphasis on freestyle. It’s a long-standing ambition of his to have a say in the medal race of a major free event, and as we all know, when he walks through a door, he doesn’t leave empty-handed. He has an amazing ability to recover, when he gets the fighting spirit he can exceed all expectations.  A lot of people have asked me what kind of results I expect from him. Well, since I don’t like to guess and I don’t like to talk about… Read more »

Reply to  Axelswim
7 months ago

Where can I find the full article?

Melyik magyar oldal jött le Virth Balázzsal az interjú?

Kristof Milak fan page twitter
Reply to  NathenDrake
7 months ago

His club has made a new podcast with his coach. It’s available on Spotify.

Reply to  Kristof Milak fan page twitter
7 months ago

Thanks, I found an infostart interview, but it was quite boring, mostly by the annoying voice of the reporter and Mr. Sós.

Reply to  NathenDrake
7 months ago

let me translate it back for you:
which hungarian page came down with Balazs Virth the interview

Reply to  NB1
7 months ago

For me its hard to comment on swimswam properly all the time. The edit is option is nowhere after 20 minutes and the mistake is there “forever”.

I forget it to write oldalon (on which website), and you can see oldal (site) only.

7 months ago

You are underestimating Kristof Milak in the freestyle events, Swimswam – his times are not rested times 🙂 He will swim a sub 47.5 in the 100 and a sub 1.45 in the 200.

Last edited 7 months ago by John
Reply to  John
7 months ago

I don’t know about 47.5, but sub-48 is definitely likely. Although relay and individual event are different things, I will be very surprised if a swimmer who dropped 46 split in relay can’t even break 48 in the individual. His current PR is 48.00 from last year’s Hungarian Nationals, where he was 50 mid in 100 fly and 1:51 in 200 fly.

Dom Tean
7 months ago

Don’t sleep on Grousset , my prediction : 47.3

7 months ago

Ceccon is entered for the 100 free and his PB is 47.7, faster than Zazzeri’s

Reply to  Luigi
7 months ago

Yes Luigi, and what Ceccon will swim in the 100 free will be very interesting, considering his great improvements in this season in 100 back and 100 fly (51.38 before the final taper) beyond 50 back and fly. In a nice Italian forum I’ve been attending in the last decade, a commenter suggested that Popovici-Ceccon could become a rivalry in the 100 free in the next years.

7 months ago

I would put Dean in top 5 in 100 free, at least ahead of Zazzeri, and Milak in top 5 of 200 free, at least ahead of Rapsys.

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Former Masters swimmer and coach Loretta (Retta) thrives on a non-stop but productive schedule. Nowadays, that includes having just earned her MBA while working full-time in IT while owning French 75 Boutique while also providing swimming insight for BBC.

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