Undaunted, Popovici prepares to attack the 200m freestyle of the Fukuoka World Cup

David Popovich He put on his glasses, inflated his lungs and exhaled, making his way to the pool seats Fukuoka. The world’s fastest swimmer wasn’t exactly nodding on the day of his debut. No cold, no heat, no anxiety, no calm. Like a poker player, he took care not to reflect his feelings. nor in the water where he swam in his most expected hour, as if he did not want to show his cards though everyone knew what it was. He wants to be the first man in swimming history to win two major freestyle tests, the 100 and 200 meters, at two world championships. He did it in Budapest in 2022, reproducing Jim Montgomery’s precedent in 1973, the only precedent. Now he’s looking to repeat it in Japan, where on Monday he swam the heats of the 200m and was placed for the final on Tuesday (1:00pm, RTVE Play and Teledeporte) with the shortest time: 1 minute 44.70 secondsthe fifth best mark of the season.

Slightly slower than a year ago when he qualified for the final (1 minute 44.40 seconds), Popovici swam his first 200 with the opposition in 2023 in Fukuoka. The Romanian was carrying an invisible but very heavy weight. He goes through the year following his dedication, after breaking 100 world records and achieving two world gold medals, and faces a psychological emptiness that forces him to ask himself what it means to set new goals. Becoming a national idol for your country can be either an encouragement or a burden. You should spot it immediately and without any signals. Unlike most of their competitors, who come from showing in the United States, Australia, Great Britain or Japan, where competition is plenty, both in university tournaments and in Trials In the playoffs, Popovici’s only touchstone before his World Championship appearance was the Romanian Spring Cup. Without discrepancy, he was swimming alone, and stopped the clock at 1 minute, 47.39 seconds, any time. Marking it on the Monday before touching the water put him 118th in the season standings.

Without acclimating himself to the extreme challenge of measuring himself against the best, and at only 18 years old, too little to accumulate experience, Popovici led the preliminary and pending semi-finals to watch the contestants more than to test himself. He accelerated, then moved to cruising speed, as if he were swimming a 400, and all the while gauging the reaction of his opponents. Discover two dares. Britain’s Matt Rickards in the morning and American Luke Hobson in the afternoon semi-final both followed on their heels until the final round. There they tried to surprise him by swimming under the water and accelerating the leg. Popovici’s response was calm. He only put carbon into the cauldron (4 to 6 kicks per turn) in the last 20 metres.

If he does not allow himself to be ambushed, and if he is able to impose his strongest rhythm, Popovici will hang gold in the 200m race on Tuesday, which is the basis for his attack on the gold in the 100m race on Thursday. At the moment, the podiums are divided in Fukuoka on the second day of the race between China and the United States. Courtesy of Australian disqualifier Kylie McCune, Americans Kate Douglas and Alex Walsh were gold and silver in the 200 style respectively (2m07.17s and 2m07.97s). For China it was the gold medal in the women’s 100-meter butterfly, which was dominated by Yufei Zhang (96.12 seconds), and the gold in the 100-meter breaststroke, conquered by Queen Haiyang (57.69 seconds) thanks to the absence of England’s Adam Peaty (world record with 56.88 seconds), who does not know if he is preparing for his final retirement or taking a vacation in the 2024 tournament.

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