Belgrade 2024: David Popovici completes double-double with fifth-fastest 200m freestyle in history

Published On: June 21, 2024

Credit to:  European Aquatics

Like poetry in motion, David Popovici swam the fifth-fastest 200m freestyle in history en-route to retaining his title at the European Aquatics Championships Belgrade 2024.

The 19-year-old was inside the pace of world record-holder Paul Biedermann until the halfway point before coming home in 1:43.13.

Only Biedermann, who holds the two fastest swims all-time of 1:42.00 and 1:42.81, Michael Phelps (1:42.96) and Popovici himself have gone quicker, the Romanian stopping the clock in a textile world record of 1:42.97 at Roma 2022.

It elevates Popovici more than a second clear at the top of the 2024 rankings, displacing Lukas Märtens and his 1:44.14 from the German Championships in April.

Victory also saw him claim the double-double of the 100 and 200m freestyle at Roma 2022 and Belgrade 2024.

Popovici said: “I’m just swimming as I train, nothing special, no time target, just go as I could.

“Was I under world record pace at 100m? Sounds good, I like that.”

Credit to: European Aquatics

Popovici added the 200 free title to his 100 gold, secured in 46.86sec, with Belgrade 2024 his final meet before he travels to Paris in search of his first Olympic medals.

In terms of what he had gained from the continental championships, Popovici said: “I am very happy, I’m satisfied. It just gives me a lot of confidence being able to race these times with frankly almost no taper at all.

“Good thing I decided to shave on the day of the final of the 100. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it and it pumped (me up).”

Danas Rapsys of Lithuania was second in 1:45.65 with Antonio Djakovic of Switzerland third in 1:46.32.

Credit to: European Aquatics

Roos Vanotterdijk timed her move perfectly in the final 25m to claim the women’s 100m butterfly final.

The Belgian turned second at halfway, 0.27 behind leader Sara Juvenik, but a 30.58 second 50m propelled her into the wall in 57.47.

With that she turned 50m silver into 100 gold and lowered her 2023 national record from 57.82 to 57.47.

Vanotterdijk enjoyed a fine junior career during which she claimed a European title at Otopeni 2022.

Now she has made her mark on the senior stage and will head to Paris for the Olympics next month.

“My only target was the Olympic cut,” she said. “I clocked a fitting time but that was too early so I had to do it here to make it count.

“Yesterday, in the semis I did that, though by 0.03sec, but I did and that made me so happy.

“This made this event already a success, so coming here I was like, it didn’t matter if I’m eighth or first, I just go.

“Yesterday my turn wasn’t the best, I was kind of gliding, so today I made an extra kick after the start which made the turn perfect and it not only gave me a better time but the gold medal too.”

Georgia Damasioti came from fourth at the turn to move through the field for second in 57.74 with Juvenik third in 58.06.

Credit to: European Aquatics

Kristyna Horska led throughout to become the first Czech woman to win the 200m breaststroke title.

The 26-year-old, who won bronze at the 2023 European Short-Course Championships in Otopeni, stopped the clock in 2:23.60 to claim her first international gold.

It was also a national record for Horska who sliced 0.68 from her previous standard of 2:24.28 set at the Eindhoven Qualification Meet in April.

It also earned her a trip to Paris for the Olympics.

“I’m lost for words,” she said. “This is amazing, I didn’t expect this. I only looked for the Olympic cut, which I managed to achieve, and plus a gold medal, I cannot wish for anymore.”

Clara Rybak-Andersen of Denmark was second in 2:25.20 while defending champion Lisa Mamie of Switzerland moved from fourth at the final turn to third in 2:26.10.

Credit to: European Aquatics

Apostolos Christou defended his 50m backstroke title as Greece claimed their third gold of Belgrade 2024.

Christou touched in 24.39, well clear of Poland’s Ksawery Masiuk (24.63) and Evangelos Makrygiannis who made it a Greek 1-3 in 24.74.

It was Christou’s second medal of Belgrade 2024 after he led off the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay who went on to win bronze.

“I am really happy. I almost touched my PB of 24.36.

“It’s a great feeling because I defended my title. That was my goal so I am really happy and looking forward to the 100m backstroke.”

Credit to: European Aquatics

Vivien Jackl claimed her first senior international title with victory in the 1500m freestyle.

The 15-year-old took over the lead after 500m and was ahead thereafter to claim the title in 16:06.37.

It was the Hungarian’s second medal of Belgrade 2024 following silver in the 400m individual medley.

“Honestly, I never thought of this, not even dreamed,” said Jackl. “I hoped for an Olympic cut, perhaps a bronze – but this time.

“A huge personal best and a gold medal. I’m lost for words, completely.”

Celine Rieder of Germany was second in 16:15.98 with Great Britain’s Fleur Lewis taking bronze in 16:17.53.

Credit to: European Aquatics

Hungary came from fourth at halfway to win the mixed 4x100m freestyle and claim their second relay title of the championships.

Hubert Kos led the quartet off in 49.39 with Szebasztian Szabo handing over to Panna Ugrai in fourth after his 48.21 split.

Ugrai went 54.38 to propel Hungary into first place with Nikolett Padar splitting 53.71 on anchor as they claimed the title in 3:25.69.

It was Hungary’s fifth relay medal of Belgrade 2024 and their second gold following victory in the women’s 4x100m freestyle.

Poland were second in 3:26.53 with Germany taking bronze in 3:27.01.

Szabo said: “It was a good swim from all of us. This was my first 100m here, always the hardest so I’m happy with this 48.2.

“The team went really well and the girls were phenomenal.

“It’s always great to win a European medal, especially when it’s gold and comes in a relay.”

Credit to: European Aquatics

The men’s 200m butterfly final promises to be a battle royale on Saturday.

Olympic champion Kristof Milak booked lane four in 1:54.64, his second-fastest time of 2024, following his Mare Nostrum record of 1:53.94, which stands second in the rankings behind Tomoru Honda’s world-leading 1:53.88.

The Hungarian is flanked on either side by the Chmielewski twins.

Krzysztof Chmielewski, who won silver at the 2022 World Championships, clocked 1:55.12, 0.64 swifter than his twin brother Michal, who finished in 1:55.76.

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