In the last few days, Romanian David Popovici lowered the men’s 100 freestyle world junior record twice at the 2021 European Junior Swimming Championships. Popovici first brought the world junior record down to a 47.56 on day 1 of the meet while swimming the opening leg of Romania’s 4×100 freestyle relay. Then he did it again in the final of the individual event with an astonishing 47.30.
A junior swimmer in men’s swimming must be 18 years of age or younger as of December 31st of the year of the swim. That’s why Popovici’s feat is so impressive, since he will turn 17 in September.
To put his performance in perspective, Instagram’s Swimming Stats page has published the all-time list of the fastest 18-year-old & under in men’s 100 freestyle.
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In the top 15 18&U in the history of the event, Popovici is the youngest one. In fact, he is the only swimmer under 17 on the list. The closest to him is Russian Ivan Girev, who was 17 years and 55 days in 2017 with a 48.33, more than one second slower than Popovici.
The Romanian is also almost two full years younger than the previous world junior record holder, Andrei Minakov, when the Russian set a 47.57 at the Russian Nationals last year.
Note that not all swimmers on this list were junior swimmers at the day of their swims. For example, Jack Cartwright recorded a 47.97 in 2017 at 18 years and 307 days of age, but on December 31st of that year, he already had turned 19.
The first 18-year-old to crack the 48-second barrier was Kyle Chalmers during the preliminary heats at the 2016 Olympics with a 47.90. He would break the world junior record twice more in Rio (47.88 in the semis and 47.58 in the final, which he won).
Then, Minakov broke Chalmers’ record last year with that 47.57, just to be surpassed twice this week by Popovici.
The first 18&U swimmer to crack the 49-second barrier in the men’s 100 freestyle was Ian Thorpe, with a 48.96 during the 2001 World Championships. It took 15 years for a 18-year-old enter in the 47-second territory. Five years from 2016, David Popovici is getting close to a 46. And he has more than two years ahead of him as a 18&U swimmer. How far can he go?