David Popovici, better known as “Chlorine Daddy,” already has one of the greatest nicknames in the sport. However, after breaking the historic men’s 100 free world record on Saturday, he may have given himself another one: “Skinny Legend.”
And Popovici/Chlorine Daddy/Skinny Legend (or whatever you want to call him) might not be done yet. After calling himself a Skinny Legend, he told BBC on Saturday that he was inspired by Adam Peaty‘s “project 56” in the 100 breast and wanted to go a time that nobody was capable of touching. And that time for Popovici is a sub-46 second 100 free.
“I wanted to go as fast as possible and it looks like I did it,” he told BBC TV. “A fantasy now might be a 45 [second time]. Adam Peaty is a pioneer in terms of the goals he set. For others it was science fiction, but not for him.”
For context, Adam Peaty put up a time of 56.88 in the 100 breast at the 2019 World Championships to become the first man under 57 seconds. Arno Kamminga is the only other man to have gone under 58, with his best time of 57.80 being nearly a second slower than Peaty’s record. If Popovici were to go 45-point in the 100 free, his achievement would be very similar to Peaty’s, as only three other swimmers aside from him (Caeleb Dressel — 46.96, Alain Bernard — 46.94, and Cesar Cielo — 46.91) have gone under 47 seconds.
Popovici has been on a tear this summer, taking down historic benchmarks one by one. Before breaking Cesar Cielo‘s super-suited 100 free world record that had stood for thirteen years, he went 1:43.21 in the 200 free at the 2022 World Championships, which was the fastest time ever gone in the event since 2012. But not only is he a superstar swimmer, but he also has a superstar personality. In addition to the numerous nicknames he gives himself, he’s also extremely candid about his pre-race habits. In fact, he once said on a podcast with retired Australian Olympian Brett Hawke that he sat alone in the back of the ready room before the 200 free final at World Championships to see the fear in his competitors’ eyes.
“I wanted to be in the back because I just wanted to see the nerves of everyone,” he said. “I had my nerves, of course, but I knew people were more scared of me than I was of them. … I just wanted to enjoy that moment of seeing the little bit of fear in their eyes.
And although Popovici has a competitive side, he’s shown great respect to his rivals and competitors, such as Dressel. When asked about him in an NBC interview, he pointed out that Dressel was a “cool, chill guy” and that he was disappointed not to race him in Budapest.
Headed into Paris, the 17-year-old Popovici will be one of the most exciting competitors to watch, both as a competitor and as a person. He is now a heavy favorite to win Romania’s first-ever gold medal in men’s swimming history.
“It’s not that popular,” Popovici said about Romanian swimming. “The thing is, it will be now a hell of a lot more popular.”