Popivici storms to the top of the world, two more titles to Turkey and Russia
Romaniaâ€™s David Popovici had one more blast to amaze everyone: his winning time of 47.30 in the menâ€™s 100m free is his second junior WR set here at the European Junior Swimming Championships in Rome and it also puts him on the top of the senior world ranks in 2021. Turkey enjoyed a great day by grabbing two gold medals again just like the Russians who also won two events. Ukraine got its first triumph here, Italy added one more gold and a bronze, before losing a second bronze in the relays in three days because of another wrong takeover.
Romaniaâ€™s David Popovici was able to overshine his opening day fireworks as he came up with another blast in the menâ€™s 100m free final. That was not only 0.26sec faster than his 47.56 new junior world mark in the relay â€“ but indeed his 47.30 is the fastest 100m free swum this season. Itâ€™s rocketed the 16-year-old to the top of the senior world ranks as this effort is 0.01sec better than Kliment Kolesnyikovâ€™s winning time at the European Aquatics Championships in Budapest â€“ so this swim would have earned the senior European title for Popovici in Mayâ€¦
â€œIâ€™m a bit lateâ€ he smiled after the race but agreed: â€œYes, indeed it came in good time considering the Olympics.â€ Popovici is a fantastic prospect for Tokyo as he could already hit the same gear that, besides Kolesnyikov, world title-holder Caeleb Dressel reached three weeks ago at the US Olympic Trials the American clocked 47.39.
There was another significant feat, in the womenâ€™s 200m fly where Russiaâ€™s Anastasia Markova managed to bring down the eventâ€™s Championship Record â€“ it had been standing since 2007, now she bettered it with 2:08.41, ahead of Lana Pudar who delivered a second silver for Bosnia Hercegovina. Here Franceâ€™s Lucie Delmas came third â€“ and her twin sister Justine is set to win the 200m breaststroke where she was a distant first in the semis.
Russia clinched a second title at the end by winning another relay, this time the mixed medley â€“ where Italy lost a second bronze medal in three days due to an erroneous take-over, it happened to them for the second time after the womenâ€™s 4x200m free final.
The Turkish swimmers kept delivering more medals: Berke Saka did great in the 200m IM, and later Mert Kilavuz and Yigit Aslan finished 1-3 in the 1500m free. In this latter event, Hungaryâ€™s David Betlehem almost ruined their party as he offered an incredible last 50m after he trailed by 2.04sec at the last turn but Kilavuz touched the wall 0.06sec ahead of him.
Ukraineâ€™s Volodymyr Lisovets opened the session with a fine win in the menâ€™s 100m breast, and Erika Gaetani cheered up the home spectators by coming first in the 100m back where 400m IM champion Katie Shanahan (GBR) and Mary-Ambre Moluh (FRA) produced the first tie for a medal in this meet â€“ they both received silver.
David Popovici (ROU), winner of the menâ€™s 100m free, with new junior WR â€œI am excited because of todayâ€™s result. You may say that itâ€™s a bit late considering the winning time at the European Championships but itâ€™s come in good time for the Olympics. I knew I was able to swim a time like this. This also confirms that I am training well for Tokyo. I am not going to stop here. I am aiming for the Olympic podium. I am glad that my parents were here tonight and could see my swim. It is important to me to receive the support of my family before and after the races. Thatâ€™s why I hope my parents will be able to be in Tokyo too.â€
Volodymyr Lisovets (UKR), winner of the menâ€™s 100m breast â€œI am satisfied with my race. I felt a little overwhelmed in the water but in the end it went well. It is my second international meet ever so I am happy with the result. Unfortunately, I could not visit the city due to Covid restrictions, but this pool is wonderful.â€
Erika Gaetani (ITA), winner of the womenâ€™s 100m back â€œI have been aiming for this victory ever since I earned the silver medal two years ago. I wanted to win today and I knew I could do it. I am hoping for a spot in the team for next yearâ€™s European Championships here in Rome.â€
Berke Saka (TUR), winner of the menâ€™s 200m IM â€œWith this gold medal in hand, now I can focus on Tokyo. The training is very tough, but I am happy to compete at the Olympic Games against great champions. I am swimming in this beautiful pool for the first time and I am very excited.â€ Anastasiia Markova (RUS), winner of the womenâ€™s 200m fly â€œI am very happy to have set a new Championship Record. I didnâ€™t expect to do so well but I still have to work hard because I am wishing to get good results at the Olympics. This is my first international gold.â€
Mert Kilavuz (TUR), winner of the menâ€™s 1500m free â€œI am grateful to my coach, itâ€™s my first gold medal. I still have a lot of work to do. I think Rome is the most beautiful city in the world. I would like to visit and discover it better in the future.â€
David Betlehem (HUN), runner-up in the 1500m free â€œMaybe it had to happen this way. Itâ€™s a bit hard to swallow to lose an 1500m free race by 0.06sec, especially when you swim a 26.70 last 50m but Iâ€™m not crashed, my main event of the season is the open water Europeans in two weeks in Paris and I could really be happy to have already won a bronze at the senior Europeans in the open water team event, now this silver, and I have chance for more.â€
Daria Tatarinova, member of Russiaâ€™s mixed medley relay â€œIt is the first gold we won in this event. The championships are well organised and we would like to come back to Rome for other races.â€
Press release from LEN, photos courtesy of Deepbluemedia/G. Scala