Can David Popovici join territory known as Biondi and Hoogie?

Can David Popovici join territory only known to Biondi and Hoogie?

In 1904, Charlie Daniels achieved the feat. matt biondi succeeded in 1988. In 2000, Pieter van den Hoogenband did the job. All legends, and all capable of completing an Olympic trifecta that, thanks to improved specialization, is now rarely pursued – let alone achieved.

So what’s the challenge?

In the more than 100 year history of the Olympics, only three athletes – those mentioned above – have stood on the podium at the same Games in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle. Obviously, winning an Olympic medal is a daunting task. This specific challenge is more formidable given the range of distances and event specialists required to navigate.

The subject is raised due to the emergence of a Romanian teenager David Popovici, whose freestyle skills and veteran demeanor have wowed the sport over the past year. Mainly debuting at the 2021 edition of the European Junior Championships, where he set a junior world record in the 100m freestyle, the 17-year-old’s potential has grown with each successive major competition.

Photo courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

While Popovici recently swept the 50, 100 and 200m freestyle at this summer’s European Junior Championships in his native country, his efforts at last month’s FINA World Championships defined his asset as a generational talent. Despite racing against some of the biggest names in the sport and more experienced and physically mature athletes, Popovici won two gold medals at the Duna Arena in Budapest.

Popovici’s first title came in the 200m freestyle, where a time of 1:43.21 made the teenager the No. 4 in history and the second fastest in the textile suit, behind only the 1:43 ,14 than the French Yannick Agnel produced on the way to gold at the London 2012 Olympics. Meanwhile, the Romanian also won the 100m freestyle, with his semi-final swimming in 47.13, just short of the European record of 47.11, held by the Russians. Kliment Kolesnikovand within reach of the world record of 46.91, set by the Brazilian Cesar Cielo at the height of the supersuit era in 2009.

The 50m freestyle was not part of Popovici’s schedule at the World Championships, and the event is far behind where he operates in the 100 and 200m freestyle. Still, he clocked a time of 22.16 for the title in one round at the European Junior Championships, a quality figure for a lean kid and one that has plenty of room for adding muscle mass in years to come. .

So, yeah, this article was designed to talk about Popovici’s possibility of winning Olympic medals in the three shortest freestyle distances. If the feat proves too much to handle, the fact that even considering the potential – at Paris 2024 or Los Angeles 2028 – is a nod to Popovici as a complete package.

Before we further assess Popovici’s hopes of reaching the Trifecta, let’s look at the people who have already broken into this elite club.


Daniels was the first athlete to complete the treble, which he did at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis. Along with winning the 220-yard freestyle, the 19-year-old picked up silver in the 100 freestyle and bronze in the 50 freestyle. Daniels, considered the first American superstar in the sport, actually won a medal in a quartet of individual events as he also prevailed in the 440-yard freestyle.

matt biondi

Photo Courtesy: World Archives of Swimming

It took 84 years for someone to match Daniels, with Biondi becoming the successor at the 1988 Games in Seoul. frequently compared to Marc Spitz, primarily due to its seven-event schedule and medal opportunities in each, Biondi lived up to expectations. The 6-7 Californian took gold in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle and was bronze in the 200 freestyle, an event shockingly won by the Aussie Duncan Armstrong. For good measure, Biondi added a silver medal in the 100m butterfly and was a member of three triumphant American relays.

At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, local hero Ian Thorpe was the most publicized athlete before the Games. And while the Aussie excelled, van den Hoogenband was arguably superior. Not only did the Dutchman beat Thorpe and set a world record in their head-to-head duel in the 200m freestyle, but he also set a world standard and won gold in the 100m freestyle. His third medal of the competition was a bronze in the 50m freestyle, where he finished behind co-champions USA Gary Hall Jr. and Anthony Ervin.

Now, is Popovici capable of joining the aforementioned Hall of Fame?

Just two years away from the 2024 Olympics in Paris, Popovici has emerged as the early favorite for gold in the 200m freestyle. By recording 1:43 less at Worlds, Popovici has created a considerable gap between him and the likes of Great Britain Tom Dean and Duncan Scottreigning Olympic gold and silver medalists respectively.

As for the 100m freestyle, Popovici occupies the elite field, alongside the Americans Caeleb Dressel and australian Kyle Chalmers, the last two Olympic titles. Already, Popovici has 10 under-48 performances. After hitting a record 47 at just 17 years old, a visit to the 46-second realm seems like the next logical step, and dropping below 47 also means threatening the world record.

At least for now, and as part of the pursuit of an Olympic Trifecta, the 50m freestyle is the long-running event on Popovici’s schedule. More than the 100 free and 200 free, the one-lapper houses a greater number of specialists. Sure, Dressel covers 50 and 100 distances, but stars like Ervin, Florent Manaudou and Bruno Fratus – in recent years – have focused their attention on the 50 free.

Possessing a flawless shot and balance that cannot be taught, Popovici will continue to thrive for years to come. But for the 50 free to become a legitimate medal possibility, it takes time. Time, more precisely, to increase muscle mass and power. Paris is probably too early to think about a medal, which means Los Angeles is better suited. And who knows, maybe the event is just too short.

Simply, David Popovici has a gift in the water, and his talent can entertain the mind and open the history book. Could he one day win the Olympic trifecta? Maybe. Again, maybe not.

If nothing else, the thought – and the hunt – is intriguing.

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