David Popovici continued to dominate the headlines at the European Championships on Monday, continuing his recent tear in Rome with a world junior record of 1:42.97 to win gold in the men’s 200-meter freestyle final.
Fresh off the 100 free world record on Saturday, Popovici’s new personal best in the 200 free now ranks him as the fastest ever in a textile suit and the third-fastest performer of all-time behind Paul Biedermann (1:42.00) and Michael Phelps (1:42.96).
It’s clear the 17-year-old Romanian is absolutely locked in this week. Afterward, he credited his focus to staying off social media, which he said can be both “positive” and “toxic.”
“After the (100m) world record, the attention was huge,” Popovici said. “I think what helped me to stay focused was that I avoided checking the social media. As positive as it can be, social media can be toxic as well. I knew I would have had a hard time falling asleep, so I think that was a good decision. My plan is to keep on working hard and going forward, step by step.”
Popovici seemed satisfied with his swim, but it wasn’t long before he turned his attention to Wednesday’s 400 free showdown. He’ll have Tuesday to recover after a busy four days of racing.
“The world junior record wasn’t really planned,” Popovici said. “It was a hard race to swim and I think my time was well-earned. This is an excellent time, a historical one, I think my coach is absolutely satisfied, and perhaps I am as well. This is the third-best ever and the best in textile, and finally, I could go under 1:43, which is great. The immediate plans are to relax a bit tomorrow and then test the waters in the 400m.”
Silver medalist Antonio Djakovic posted a 1:45.60, just off his Swiss record from Sunday’s semifinals. The 19-year-old talked about the difficulties of swimming next to Popovici in his wake.
“I fought till the end, that was a huge race, especially towards the end,” Djakovic said. “Yesterday I swam my personal best so I was a bit tired. I couldn’t better that today, but at least I got the silver and I’m really happy with that. We are really great friends with David (Popovici), of course, outside of the pool, in the water we battle with each other. It was hard to swim next to him as he rushed ahead and his waves hit my lane constantly.”
Apostolos Christou didn’t have the crowd on his side during the men’s 50 backstroke final, but he still used the electric atmosphere inside Parco del Foro Italico to his advantage. After securing the European crown with a 24.36, the 25-year-old Greek swimmer said that the Italians’ cheers for runner-up Thomas Ceccon made him go even harder for the gold medal.
“That was a fantastic race in a fantastic atmosphere,” Christou said. “When I came out and I saw the crowd and heard the cheering that really pumped me up, gave me a lot of energy even if the cheering went to Ceccon but that just made me more competitive. That’s my personal best, came away with a gold medal. So I’m a European champion now, I cannot be any much happier!”
Although Ceccon missed the top spot on the podium by just .04 seconds, he was still pleased with his performance aside from his touch at the end. The world record holder will be the favorite in his specialty 100 back on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Fine, 24.40 – I did a really good time, this is my new personal best,” Ceccon said. “I messed it up at the end, arriving to the wall. Tomorrow I’ll have the 100m, I’ll try to do better. By the way, this is my first medal in the 50m, so it’s a good feeling.”
Louise Hansson had a huge night for Sweden. Between her gold medal in the 100 fly (56.66) and her bronze in the mixed 4×100 free relay (3:23.40), she said it was an unforgettable session.
“It was a great night for me today, first with the gold medal in the 100m fly and now this bronze in the relay,” Hansson said. “I’m really happy with the team’s performance and swimming together like this in Rome was fantastic. Two medals in the same session, it’s something amazing and I will remember this night forever.”
Sweden’s bronze medal gave Sarah Sjostrom 26 long-course Euro medals for her career, tying Alexander Popov’s all-time mark. Sjostrom now has 15 gold, seven silver, and four bronze, including 10 from relays. Popov boasts 21 gold, three silver, and two bronze, including 13 from relays. Sjostrom should make history and break Popov’s record during Tuesday’s 50 free final.
“This is amazing, though you know I always say that I’m not that good in those stats, I don’t really keep an eye on them,” Sjostrom said. “This is very fitting that this historic medal came in a relay, it was a great performance from our relay. And I think I have a good chance in the 50m free and in the medley relay so we have two more promising days to come.”
After Great Britain took silver in the mixed 4×100 free relay (3:23.30) just a tenth of a second ahead of Sweden, sprint star Tom Dean emphasized the unpredictability of the race along with the accomplishments of teammate Freya Anderson. The medal was Anderson’s fifth of the meet, and the 21-year-old Brit has a chance to bring home seven medals from Rome if she can reach the podium in the mixed 4×200 free on Tuesday and women’s 4×100 medley relay on Wednesday.
“I think this is Freya’s (Anderson) fifth medal and she can end up finishing these Europeans with
seven if everything adds up, which would be an incredible achievement,” Dean said. “I wish to emphasize that. We all did very good swims and did well overall. The reason mixed relays is so fun to swim is that it can change rapidly, and it’s incredible to predict who wins at the end. Different teams have different strengths, and so much can change during the race. It has been a very long and tiring season for all of us so we are more than happy to have come out with another medal.”
Italy’s Simona Quadarella reflected on capturing her third straight Euro title in the women’s 1500 free final (15:54.15), eight seconds ahead of the field.
“I’m really satisfied, this is my third European title in a row after Glasgow and Budapest,” Quadarella said. “The time is OK at this stage of the season, which was very long and difficult. Plus, I’ve never swum that fast at the Europeans, so this is great. What’s important to me is to keep on winning in my events and reconfirm myself – and I just did that.”
Silver medalist Viktoria Mihalyvari-Farkas offered insight into her race strategy as the 18-year-old Hungarian started in sixth place early before moving up to third at the 400-meter mark and eventually second at the midway point. The 18-year-old Hungarian nearly posted a negative split, going 8:01.41 on the front half and blazing 8:01.74 on the second half.
“I was totally aware that Quadarella and (Tamlia) Holub (POR) would swim the first 800m really fast,” Mihalyvari-Farkas said. “I chose to keep my pace. I knew they would fade after halfway and I knew my time should come for sure. I think I swam great, it is a personal best obviously, and it’s great that this time earned me a silver here. I think I managed to cause some surprise here, I approached the final much smarter. I did not think of the final before, I didn’t want to stress myself. It was very important to see my coach on the deck that he was focused, gave the sign, lived in this race – for me that support means an awful lot.”
Kyle Chalmers left the conversation.
Emily Seebom already fled when she saw “social media” in the title
A very smart kid.
Dressel said he avoided social media at his last NCAAs
He’s wise and has good advice/people that surround him.
Smart boy. Mature beyond his years.
That’s ChlorineDaddy for you