David Popovici

View Current photo via courtesy of Jack Spitser

David Popovici is a competitive swimmer who represents Romania internationally. He is the World Record holder in the 100m freestyle (46.86) and World Jr Record Holder in 200 free (1:42.97) as well as the 2022 World Champion in the 100/200 free. He was the fastest 18-Under swimmer in history at just the age of 16.

International Career

2019 European Youth Summer Olympic Festival (Baku, Azerbaijan)

Popovici jumpstarted his international career at age 14, competing in 3 events at the Euro Youth Summer Olympic Festival. He took gold in the 100 free (49.82, new meet record) while also taking silver in the 50 free (23.03) and 200 free (1:50.93).

2020 Romanian Championships (Bucharest, Romania)

Popovici made noise at his national championships in 2020, posting a 49.26 for a huge PB in the 100 free. This gave him the FINA ‘A’ cut as well as made him faster than Caeleb Dressel was at age 16.

David Popovici on the SwimSwam Podcast

Soon after these championships, SwimSwam sat down with Popovici to speak with him about his training through the COVID-19 Pandemic on an episode of the SwimSwam Podcast, which you can listen to here. In this episode, Popovici speaks on wanting to be the fastest 16-year-old in history.

2021 European Championships (Budapest, Hungary)

At his first European Championships, Popovici gained valuable racing experience while breaking two national records in the 100 and 200 free. He placed 6th in the 100 free final (48.08), 20th in the heats of the 200 free (1:48.38), and 24th in the heats of the 50 free (22.43).

About a month after the European Champs, in his home of Bucharest, Popovici stormed to a 1:46.15 200m free, re-breaking his own national record in the event by over 2 seconds. The 16-year-old also posted a 22.60 in the 50m free that weekend.

2021 European Jr Championships (Rome, Italy)

In the last competition before his first Olympic Games, Popovici started things off with a bang by lowering the world junior record in the men’s 100 freestyle to a 47.56 during a 4×100 freestyle relay leadoff.

The swim was an improvement upon Andrei Minakov‘s former world junior record in the event of 47.57 from 2020. Minakov was actually out faster in his world junior record-breaking swim, opening with a 22.84 compared to Popovici’s 23.07.

Split Comparison:

50m 23.07 22.84
100m 24.49 (47.56) 24.73 (47.57)


Interestingly Popovici shaved only 0.01 seconds off Minakov’s previous record which is the same narrow margin that Minakov lowered the record by in 2020. Minakov’s 47.57 was only 0.01 seconds quicker than the 47.58 mark that Kyle Chalmers set to win gold at Rio 2016.

Popovici took the world junior record and the European junior record from Minakov and also lowered the European Junior Championships record of 48.32 which he set while swimming the leadoff of the relay during prelims.

After cruising through prelims (49.50) and semis (48.08), Popovici popped off in finals to lower his record even further, touching the wall at 47.30, not only dropping .26 but making him the top seed heading into the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Popovici continued his impressive meet in the 200 free, cruising through prelims before dropping a 1:45.26 in semi-finals, coming very close to the world junior record of 1:44.96. He won the event the next night, clocking a 1:45.9 just minutes after swimming the semi-final of the 50 free. He would go on to win the 50 free as well the next night in 22.22.

2020 Olympic Games

Popovici had a strong start to his first Olympic Games, moving through the prelims and semis in the 200 free to make the final. Swimming out of lane 1, Popovici swam out in front from the start, ultimately touching 4th in a huge personal best of 1:44.68, just missing a medal by .02.

In the 100 free, Popovici once again asserted himself as a medal contender, qualifying for the final (47.72) and ultimately placing 7th in 48.04.

2022 World Championships

Popovici started his meet off strong, cruising through prelims of the 200 free and dropping the hammer in prelims, clocking a PB 1:44.40 to take the top seed and break a world jr record. However, that was just the beginning. In the final, Popovici laid it all on the table, flipping in 49.9 at the meet and pulling away from the field immensely on the 2nd 100, touching at 1:43.21 to make him the 4th fastest performer of all-time (2nd textile All-time) and earn him world champ gold.

On Day 4 in the semis of the 100 free, Popovici wowed once again, breaking his 3rd world junior record in as many days by clocking a 47.13 in the 100 free, heading into the final as the top seed by nearly half a second. On day 5, in the final of the 100 free, Popovici was able to get the job done once again, touching at 47.58 for a come-from-behind victory, just .06 ahead of France’s Maxime Grousset. This marked his 2nd world title.

2022 European Championships

David kept his momentum rolling from the world champs into Rome. His meet started with the 100 free, where in prelims he clocked the fastest 100 free in history (47.20), followed by a 46.98 performance in semi-finals, clocking a new world jr record and European record.

Popovici one-upped himself in a big way in the 100-free final, clocking a 46.86 to not only win gold but break Cesar Cielo’s 13-year-old record in the event. He was out in 22.74 and back in 24.12 to break the historic mark.

Chlorine Daddy was not done for the week, however. He once again proved he was in top form in the 200 free, moving through prelims and semis easily and dropping the hammer in finals, clocking a new PB of 1:42.97, making him the fastest textile performer ever in the event and #3 all-time behind Michael Phelps and WR holder Paul Beidermann.

Popovici’s Splits:

  • 50m: 24.10
  • 100m: 26.25/50.35
  • 150m: 26.61/1:16.96
  • 200m: 26.01/1:42.97

2022 Short Course World Championships

In Melbourne, Popovici finished his year with even more best times. In the 100 free, the Romanian placed 4th overall (45.64), breaking a national record and world jr record in the process while just .07 away from medaling.

In the 200 free, Popovici scored silver, touching at 1:40.79, another best time and national record.

2023 World Aquatics Championships (Fukuoka, Japan)

Coming into the 200 free the favorite despite a season-best of just 1:45.49, Popovici was decent in prelims with a 1:45.86 for 3rd. He led in semis with a season-best time of 1:44.70. In the final, Popovici was out quick with a 23.74, under his WJR pace by .36. He remained under the record pace at the 100 with a 50.18 split. He showed no signs of faltering at the 150 with a 26.60 to remain under his best pace but disaster struck on the last 50. Popovici came home in a sluggish 28.12, well off the 26.10 he did in his WJR. The last 50 swa Popovici passed by Matt Richards, Tom Dean, and Hwang Sunwoo. Popovici’s 1:44.90 missed the podium.

International Medals

Place Event Year Meet
Gold 100 Free 2022 World Championships
Gold 200 Free 2022 World Championships
Silver 200 Free 2022 Short Course World Championships
Gold 100 Free 2022 European Championships
Gold 200 Free 2022 European Championships
Gold 200 Free 2021 Short Course European Championships

Best Times

Course Event Time Date Meet
lcm 50 Free 22.22 07/11/21 2021 European Jr Championships
Rome, Italy
lcm 100 Free 46.86 08/13/22 2022 European Championships
Rome, Italy
lcm 200 Free 1:42.97 08/15/22 2022 European Championships
Rome, Italy
scm 100 Free 45.65 12/15/22 2022 Short Course World Championships
Melbourne, Australia
scm 200 Free 1:40.79 12/18/22 2022 Short Course World Championships
Melbourne, Australia
Romanian Swimming Federation/Mihai Popovici swimming, nuoto LEN European Junior Swimming Championships 2021 Rome 20427 Stadio Del Nuoto Foro Italico Photo Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto ATHLETE: DAVID POPOVICI PHOTOGRAPHER: MATEI BUTA IMAGE USE: FULL BUYOUT courtesy of arena David Popovici courtesy World Aquatics David Popovici 2022 LEN European Swimming Championship Rome Courtesy of LEN Fabio Cetti David Popovici 2022 LEN European Swimming Championship Rome Courtesy of Fabio Cetti David Popovici, LEN/Simone Castrovillari