The 2021  Tokyo Olympics are fast approaching and no one is approaching them as fast as 16-year-old David Popovici. He went from a deep swim nerd name to a gold medal contender to expectations of breaking 46 seconds (from some, not this author) in less than 6 months. However, will we see Popovici break a 100 free WR in the future? Only time will tell, but is certainly turning heads, even from the heavy favorites Caeleb Dressel and Kyle Chalmers.
For those who haven’t followed one of our analyses, these analyses are for fun and to spark debate. There are some inherent flaws in this race analysis:
- Videos are taken from YouTube videos (often with subpar angles)
- There are analyzed with Kinovea
Watch 100 Free WJR – 47.30 LCM David Popovici
100 Free WJR Record Analysis
First 25 Meters
First 15 Meters
With an ordinary start, David Popovici breaks the surface at 3.34 seconds and hits the 15-m mark at 5.11. Unlike Caeleb Dressel, Popivici surfaces much before 15-m and hits the 15-m mark with his peers [wearing the blue jammer].
15 Meters – 25 Meters
Popovici took 9 strokes over this distance at a velocity of ~1.97 m/s.
25 Meters – 35 Meters
Popovici took 8 strokes over this distance. He maintained around 2.0 m/s.
35 Meters – 50 Meters
Taking 11 strokes into the wall, Popovici slowed a little into the turn, with a velocity of 1.85 m/s over the last 15 m.
First 50 Meters Analysis
Hitting the wall at 22.97, Popovici was well ahead of the field of other Junior swimmers. Over the first 50 meters, he took 31 strokes and had a distance per stroke of 1.36 meters/stroke. In comparison, in Cesar Cielo’s 100 free WR swim, Cielo took 30. In this race, Cielo went 22.17 (0.82 s faster) at the 50 meter mark. The textile best 100 m free is held by Caeleb Dressel. In that race, Dressel went 22.29 at the 50 meter mark. Chalmers, the 2016 Gold Medalist went 22.79 at the 50 meter mark.
Clearly, Popovici’s strategy is more like Chalmers, but even more extreme (at least compared to Dressel and Cielo).
50 Meters – 65 Meters
Off the turn, Popovici breaks the water at 2.62 seconds and hits the 15-m mark at 6.15 seconds.
65 Meters – 75 Meters
Into the 75-m mark, he is at a velocity of 1.96 m/s. He takes 8 strokes over this distance.
75 Meters – 85 Meters
Over this distance he takes 9 strokes and maintains his velocity.
85 Meters – 100 Meters
Into the wall, he takes 13 strokes. He is able to maintain nearly the same velocity.
Seconds 50 Meters Analysis
Popovici is able to maintain his velocity off the turn, and provide a very similar velocity and stroke count over the second 50-meters. His distance per stroke over the last 15-m is a bit higher, 1.15 meters/stroke, but this is likely from the extra stroke he took into the wall.
Overall, his second 50-meters is extraordinary, closing in 24.33. This is similar to how Chalmers closes, as he split 24.29 in his 47.08 swim at the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships.
100 LCM Free WJR Analysis
It is hard to imagine at 16-year-old is now in discussion for the Tokyo Olympic Gold, nonetheless, Popovici’s swim puts him in the discussion. His impressive back half speed, similar to Chalmers is playing into Popovici’s strengths compared to the other main competitor at the upcoming Olympics Caeleb Dressel.
Theoretical Improvements for David Popovici to Break the 100 Free WJR
There is room to improve for every swimmer. Here are the notable improvements from David Popovici 100 free WJR:
- Compared to other elite sprinters, David can improve his 0-15-m by ~0.2-0.3 seconds. This will likely improve with better underwater kicking, which will also reduce his total strokes.
- He was not fully tucked into the turn which likely reduced his velocity into the turn. If he can improve this and his underwater kicking, he could improve another ~0.2 seconds.
- He took an extra stroke into the finish, which likely increased his time by <0.1 seconds.
With these improvements, he can improve another ~0.5 seconds, taking him under the current WR.
There are likely more technical improvements with his swimming stroke, but the video from the race is not close enough or provide underwater angles for full assessment.