WATCH: David Popovici Hits 1:42.97 200 Free, Fastest Textile Swim In History


The last four days have been an absolute tour de force for David Popovici, as the 17-year-old Romanian has etched his name in the record books with some monumental freestyle performances.

Coming off a world record-breaking performance in the men’s 100 freestyle final on Saturday, Popovici followed up with the fastest textile swim of all-time in the 200 free final two nights later, dropping a scintillating time of 1:42.97.

Popovici overtakes Yannick Agnel (1:43.14) for the fastest textile swim in history, and now ranks third behind Paul Biedermann (1:42.00) and Michael Phelps (1:42.96) in the all-time performers’ list. Popovici also breaks his own World Junior Record of 1:43.21 set at the World Championships in June.

Race Video

Relative to his previous best set earlier this year in Budapest, Popovici employed a drastically different strategy on Monday in Rome.

The Romanian was slightly slower on each of the first three 50s compared to his splits from the World Championships, putting him 69 one-hundredths shy of PB pace at the final turn.

It looked like a relatively close race between Popovici and Switzerland’s Antonio Djakovic over the first 150, and then Popovici absolutely blew him away on the last 50, splitting an eye-popping 26.01.

He clearly had to hold himself back opening up—his first 50 was actually slower than what he opened with in the semis of the 2021 Euro Juniors in the same pool—and remained conservative before letting it fly on the last length.

Split Comparison

Popovici, 2021 Euro Juniors (sf) Popovici, 2021 Olympics Popovici, 2022 Worlds Popovici, 2022 Euros
23.94 24.23 23.77 24.10
50.70 (26.76) 50.73 (26.50) 49.96 (26.19) 50.35 (26.35)
1:18.34 (27.64) 1:17.97 (27.24) 1:16.27 (26.31) 1:16.96 (26.61)
1:45.26 (26.92) 1:44.68 (26.71) 1:43.21 (26.94) 1:42.97 (26.01)

The two swims that sandwich Popovici’s in the all-time rankings are Phelps’ 1:42.96 from the 2008 Olympics and Agnel’s 1:43.14 from 2012.

In terms of splitting, all three paced the race in a similar manner.

Given that Popovici clocked 46.86 in the 100 free just two days before this swim, and that Phelps (47.51) and Agnel’s (47.84) best times in the 100 were done at the same meet as these 200 swims, perhaps Popovici could have even more time to drop if he let himself get a little more aggressive through the first 150.

Split Comparison

Phelps, 2008 Agnel, 2012 Popovici, 2022
24.31 24.55 24.10
50.29 (25.98) 50.64 (26.09) 50.35 (26.35)
1:16.84 (26.55) 1:17.16 (26.52) 1:16.96 (26.61)
1:42.96 (26.12) 1:43.14 (25.98) 1:42.97 (26.01)

All-Time Performances, Men’s 200 Freestyle (LCM)

  1. Paul Biedermann (GER), 1:42.00 – 2009 World Championships
  2. Paul Biedermann (GER), 1:42.81 – 2009 World Championships
  3. Michael Phelps (USA), 1:42.96 – 2008 Olympic Games
  4. David Popovici (ROU), 1:42.97 – 2022 European Championships
  5. Yannick Agnel (FRA), 1:43.14 – 2012 Olympic Games
  6. David Popovici (ROU), 1:43.21 – 2022 World Championships
  7. Michael Phelps (USA), 1:43.22 – 2009 World Championships
  8. Michael Phelps (USA), 1:43.31 – 2008 Olympic Games
  9. Paul Biedermann (GER), 1:43.65 – 2009 World Championships
  10. Michael Phelps (USA), 1:43.86 – 2007 World Championships

Joining the 1:42-club is something Popovici forecasted for himself just one year ago:

Now having joined Biedermann and Phelps sub-1:43, the sky is the limit for Popovici. Since Biedermann’s 1:42-flat in 2009, the thought of someone breaking that record and going 1:41 seemed like a fantasy. But now, it looks like we’ve found the swimmer who could one day turn that into a reality.

Entering these European Championships, we had only ever seen three swims under 47 seconds in the 100 freestyle, and three swims under 1:43 in the 200 free. Popovici alone has brought the cumulative total of sub-47/sub-1:43 swims up from six to nine over the last couple of days, becoming the first to break both barriers in the process.

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7 months ago

Popovici exploded off the last wall, wow! His start and turns seemed a little stronger in this race than in the 100.

7 months ago

Very exciting !!

7 months ago

When is the drug test coming lol. I don’t understand how he could drop so much time in just one year with that technique and build. If he’s legit I’ll give his flowers but I can’t buy in this seems to fishy for me.

Reply to  Swammer
7 months ago

What if he was American?

Reply to  Robbos
7 months ago

Like, I don’t deny that Phelps had insane characteristics of his body that kind of get shaped through training, but also just genetics. Phelps is double jointed, has large feet and hands, a long upper body torso with shorter legs (shorter legs = less drag), a wingspan width longer than his height, and really none of that involves his work ethic, his desires to be the best, and commitment and dedication to the sport.

The first thing I notice with Popovici is that he has an insane gangly body (I mean that as a compliment). He’s super long and looks like he has viking oars for hands to propel him through the water. He’s clearly strong, yet sleek in the… Read more »

Reply to  jim
7 months ago

We’ve seen gangly bodies before. His body reminds me a lot of Pieter van den Hoogenband who was dominant in the 100/200 too. Van den Hoogenband was a total string bean too at 6’4 or 6’5 and maybe 175lbs wet on a well fed day.

Reply to  Swammer
7 months ago

Wow that’s a stupid comment. If he was American it’s talent and hard work 🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣.

Reply to  Swammer
7 months ago

Dude, his technique is excellent. Super fast catch, high elbow, acceleration in the stroke, and a monster kick. If he gets stronger on his start and underwaters he will be 1:41.

Reply to  Swammer
7 months ago

In the USA people question the times when done by a none US swimmer, but when done by an US swimmer they cheer like crazy
Give the credit to the swimmer an forget about “your GOAT”

Reply to  Swammer
7 months ago

“That technique”? Bruh

Go Kamminga Go
Reply to  Swammer
7 months ago



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About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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