David Popovici has completed a perfect long course season.
From June to September, the Romanian standout won every single individual final he raced at the World Championships (100, 200 free), World Junior Championships (100, 200 free), European Championships (100, 200 free) and European Junior Championships (50, 100, 200 free). Along the way, he became the world record holder in the men’s 100 freestyle.
Additionally, he became one of the few swimmers to hold junior and senior world long course titles simultaneously. It is a very short list, as shown by Swimming Stats’ Instagram.
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Not only that, but Popovici is the only swimmer to hold junior and senior titles in TWO events (100 and 200 freestyle), and the only male swimmer to win junior and senior titles in the same year.
The only other swimmer who won gold medals at both the World Championships and World Junior Championships in the same year at the same event is Ruta Meilutyte. The Lithuanian won the women’s 100 breaststroke at the 2013 Worlds in Barcelona and then one month later, at the World Junior Championships in Dubai.
(In fact, Meilutyte is the only swimmer in history who won the World, World Junior, European, European Junior and Olympic Youth titles – the latter is the one Popovici has not won.)
The World Junior Championships debuted in 2006, and have occurred during the same year as the World Championships every year since 2011 (the last six editions).
Besides Meilutyte and Popovici, every other swimmer on the list won junior and senior titles in different years. But they managed to hold the titles at the same time. This is possible, since the World Junior Championships are usually held a few weeks after the World Championships, and some swimmers arrive at the World Championships as the last world junior champions two (or three) years before.
For example, during the 2022 World Championships in Budapest, Torri Huske won the women’s 100 butterfly and Thomas Ceccon won the men’s 100 backstroke. They were, at the time, the reigning world junior champions in those events, since they had won them at the 2019 World Junior Championships — and the 2022 World Junior Championships were held after the 2022 World Championships.
Of course, it is much harder winning the titles in the same year, since it’s extremely rare to see a junior-aged swimmer become a world champion. That’s why this is another amazing achievement set by David Popovici.