World Championships, Day Two Semifinals: David Popovici Sharpening His Form In Quest For 200 Freestyle Repeat

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24 July 2023, 05:58am

World Championships, Day Two Semifinals: David Popovici Sharpening His Form In Quest For 200 Freestyle Repeat

A year ago, David Popovici used the summer to announce his presence as one of the sport’s premier talents. In addition to earning world titles in the 100 freestyle and 200 freestyle, the Romanian broke the longstanding world record of Cesar Cielo in the 100 freestyle. This summer, the 18-year-old is trying to build on his growing legacy.

Looking comfortable throughout his four laps, Popovici nailed down the top seed for the final of the 200-meter freestyle at the World Championships in Fukuoka. Popovici booked Lane Four for Tuesday night on the strength of a 1:44.70 marker, one of only two sub-1:45 efforts in the semifinals. The other came from American Luke Hobson, who raced next to Popovici and touched in a personal best of 1:44.87.

One of three men to break the 1:43 barrier in the 200 freestyle, the next target for Popovici is the 14-year-old world record of Paul Biedermann. At the 2009 World Championships in Rome, where 43 world records were set, the German clocked a time of 1:42.00. Of course, that effort was fueled by a since-banned polyurethane suit that made the sport – for a period – more about technology than pure skill.

If anyone is capable of tracking down that Biedermann standard, it’s Popovici. He owns a personal best of 1:42.97 in the 200 free, which is the fastest time ever produced in a textile suit. Not only does Popovici possess a potent combination of speed and endurance, he believes he is capable of achieving feats not yet seen. In Fukuoka, the question is how much Popovici has saved up for the final. Certainly, he looked easy in his semifinal.

Hobson’s initial trip inside 1:45 bodes well for the United States, as he is a rising star from the University of Texas and figures to have plenty of international work ahead. Whether Hobson can back up his second seed and earn his first World Championships medal will come down to the American denying a stacked field behind him. In his semifinal, Hobson was aggressive and that approach will be relied on with medals on the line.

Sitting third and fourth are Korea’s Hwang Sunwoo and Great Britain’s Tom Dean. Hwang covered his semifinal in 1:45.07 while Dean, the Olympic champ in Tokyo, went 1:45.29 to place just ahead of the 1:45.40 by British teammate Matt Richards. Lee Hojoon of Korea went 1:45.93 for sixth and Kieran Smith made it two Americans in the final with a time of 1:45.96.

The final spot went to Austria’s Felix Aubock, who won a swimoff over Japan’s Katsuhiro Matsumoto. After tying for eighth at 1:45.97 in the semifinals, Aubock and Matsumoto posted respective times of 1:46.30 and 1:46.37 in the swimoff.


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