David Popovici Goes 46.86, Breaks Cielo’s 13-Year Old 100 Free World Record


For thirteen years, Cesar Cielo‘s 100 free world record time of 46.91 from the 2009 World Championships stood untouched. Several swimmers have come close, such as Cameron McEvoy in 2016 (47.04) and Caeleb Dressel in 2019 (46.96), but no swimmer had gone under Cielo’s magical mark.

That was until 17-year-old David Popovici came along, and he ended up being the one to finally put that super-suited record to sleep. In fact, he even broke the world record in the same pool as Cielo—the Parco Del Foro Italico pool in Rome, Italy.

On Saturday, in the men’s 100 free final at the 2022 European Championships, Popovici threw down a time of 46.86 to lower Cielo’s world record by 0.05 seconds. He wasn’t even leading at the halfway mark of the race, opening in 22.74 and trailing Maxime Grousset with 50 meters left to go. However, he came home in a scintillating 24.12 final 50, and ended up winning by a whopping 0.61 seconds.

That final 50 split is the third-fastest closing split in the history of the 100 free, just behind Popovici’s 24.05 from yesterday’s semifinals  and Andrei Minakov’s 24.11 from December 2020.

Fastest Back Half Splits Of All-Time, Men’s 100 Free:

  1. David Popovici, Romania — 24.05/46.98 (2022)
  2. Andrei Minakov, Russia — 24.11/48.45 (2020)
  3. David Popovici, Romania — 24.12/46.86 (2022)
  4. David Popovici, Romania — 24.19/47.54 (2022)
  5. Michael Phelps, United States — 24.20/47.51 (2008)

Yesterday, Popovici went 46.98 in the semifinals, which made him then the fourth-fastest performer in the history of the event. He is now the only male to ever go 46-point in the 100 free more than once.

All Time Top Performances, Men’s 100 Free:

  1. David Popovici, Romania — 46.86 (2022)
  2. Cesar Cielo, Brazil — 46.91 (2009)
  3. Alain Bernard, France — 46.94 (2009)
  4. Caeleb Dressel, United States — 46.96 (2019)
  5. David Popovici, Romania — 46.98 (2022)
  6. Caeleb Dressel, United States — 47.02 (2021)

Because Popovici is still a junior, his world record is also a World Junior record, a feat that is very rare amongst male swimmers. Other men who have held world records as juniors include legends like Michael Phelps and Ian Thorpe.

Popovici’s progression in the 100 free has been incredible, as his best time in April 2021 was 49.09. In just over a year, he has dropped over two seconds in the event. It can also be established that he is the best men’s 100 freestyler in the world by far right now, as he holds the top five times in the event for the 2022 season.

Men’s 100 Free Rankings, 2022:

  1. David Popovici — 46.86
  2. David Popovici — 46.98
  3. David Popovici — 47.13
  4. David Popovici — 47.20
  5. David Popovici — 47.34
  6. Kyle Chalmers — 47.36

You can watch the full race video of the World Record here, coutesy of “snake eyes’ on YouTube:

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

I’ve very roughly translated Cesar Cielo’s congratulatory video to Popovici.

That’s it guys, the day has arrived. Look, I’m going to tell you, until now I thought it wouldn’t be reached. The record has been surviving for so many years. There are so many good people trying to beat this record but today it happened. For those of you who may not follow swimming, David Popovici just broke my world record of the 100 meter freestyle that was thirteen years old; it turned three at the end of July, and he ended up breaking exactly in the same pool that I got the world record in. So my congratulations to the population of Romania. We have to be very

… Read more »

Lex Soft
1 year ago

Wow… Phelps is only behind DP and Andrey Minakov in back-half list. Where are the 100 free specialists who are well-known for their back-half : Kyle Chalmers, James Magnussen,… ?

Reply to  Lex Soft
1 year ago

Given how the supersuit worldrecords of Cielo and Biedermann have (understandably) been disputed through the years, I think it is only fair to mention that this half-split by Phelps was also with a supersuit

Wirmandi Sugriat
1 year ago

That’s awesome…. Him and Caleb will try to beat each other for at least 4 years to come……

Lex Soft
Reply to  Wirmandi Sugriat
1 year ago

Hello Indonesian legend in breakstroke… 🙂

1 year ago

Breaking a WR is more impressive when it happens at the Olympics or at Worlds — the pressure is at its highest, basically all nations are invited, and having all the heavy hitters generates more waves in the pool.

Reply to  Tony
1 year ago

It’s the European Championships. It’s not a small meet.

1 year ago

I said he would definitely not drop further time in the final but very happy to be wrong! The future is here!

If he manages to break or get close to the 200 record as well then it’s very Regan Smith like (although a little less out of nowhere but still somewhat surprising)

Reply to  Sub13
1 year ago

It will only be Regan Smith-like if Popovici then spends the next 3 years unable to set any new PBs, and misses the 2024 Romanian Olympic team in the 100 free by finishing third at trials.

Jamba Juice Drinker 49
1 year ago

Let me know when he goes 39, last I checked 39<46

Go Kamminga Go
Reply to  Jamba Juice Drinker 49
1 year ago

Dressel approved!

Go Kamminga Go
1 year ago

Now we know why Dressel fled Budapest

Reply to  Go Kamminga Go
1 year ago

Apex predator was coming to feed. It’s sensible that prey should flee.

Reply to  Go Kamminga Go
1 year ago

No, actually, you don’t

Go Kamminga Go
Reply to  Cate
1 year ago

Dressel, is that you?

1 year ago

We need another Chalmers vs Popovici obviously Popovici has a faster time but their racing strategies are so similar both go out in similar speeds and come home like a truck so it would a great race to watch and it’s what Chalmers needs to push him along

Reply to  Tyson
1 year ago

The Paris final should be something special!!!!

About Yanyan Li

Yanyan Li

Although Yanyan wasn't the greatest competitive swimmer, she learned more about the sport of swimming by being her high school swim team's manager for four years. She eventually ventured into the realm of writing and joined SwimSwam in January 2022, where she hopes to contribute to and learn more about …

Read More »