Racing began on Tuesday at the FINA World Junior Swimming Championships in the Videna Aquatic Center in Lima, the capital city of Peru. Romania’s David Popovici, the star of the 8th edition, penned his name in the record books during the first session and then bettered his performance in the evening.
David Popovici twice lowered the FINA World Junior Championship Record in the 100m freestyle; first by leading off the 4x100m freestyle relay in prelims and again in finals. The 17-year-old Romanian led his squad to victory in the finals, a first for their nation.
Arriving in Lima at his final competition as a junior athlete, the phenom from Romania had a very busy and productive summer. In June he won the 100m and 200m freestyle events at the FINA World Championships in Budapest. Most recently he broke Brazilian Cesar Cielo’s 13-year-old World Record in the 100m free at the European Championships in Rome, posting 46.86 on August 13th.
Two days later he became the third man in history to break the 1:43 barrier in the 200m freestyle, winning the European Championships in a time of 1:42.97, which was not only a World Junior record, but also the fastest time in the world in the past 13 years.
MEN’S 400m FREESTYLE - FINAL
At his first FINA World Junior Swimming Championships, Stephan Steverink of Brazil emerged the winner in a time of 3:48.27, a scant 0.11 ahead of Romania’s Vlad Stefan Stancu who was one of his 7 challengers from Europe. The Brazilian took the race out in 53.88 and was comfortably in control until Poland’s Krzysztof Chmielewski overtook him at the 200m mark. Chmielewski led for most of the next 3 laps before Steverink reclaimed his lead at the 300m mark and split 29.14 and 28.23 in his final two laps.
The 18-year-old finished in 16th-place finish in the 400 IM at the FINA World Championships. Steverink is the first world junior champion from South America since Argentina’s Delfina Pignatiello. The Brazilian’s time is just slightly faster than the time of Australia’s Joshua Staples who won the Junior PanPacs on August 26th in a time of 3:48.36 last week.
Italy’s Lorenzo Galossi was the winner of the European Junior Championships in a slightly faster time of 3:48.14. Galossi, who is not racing in Lima, swam a time of 3:45.93 at the Italian Spring Championships earlier this year, setting a European Junior Record at age 15.
WOMEN’S 400m INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY - FINAL
Japan’s Mio Narita handily won this event swimming a new championship record time of 4:37.78. She swam 6.41 seconds faster than second place Lilla Minna Abraham from Hungary to clinch her second victory in this event in less than a week. On August 25th Narita won the Junior Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in a time of 4:36.79 breaking a 10 year old record by just under 3 seconds.
“I’m very happy with this medal. I was not able to swim my best time here but I was pleased with the victory," Narita said. "To tell the truth, my flight from Japan to Honolulu was my first trip on an airplane and it took some days to adjust before racing at the Junior Pan Pacs in Hawaii. My second trip was from Hawaii to Lima, and I am adjusting a bit better.”
I am speechless, my mind is trying to catch up, but I know my coach will be happy. It was a very hard race. I could hear the Brazilian team cheering for me. My coach was expecting this from me and he knows that I love to race. I always swim better with a challenge (from other swimmers). I want to say thank you, of course, to my coach. I still have the 800m and the 1500m and in fact the individual medley may be my best race.
WOMEN’S 50m BREASTSTROKE - SEMI-FINALS
Karolina Piechowicz of Poland was the fastest qualifier in the event, winning the second semi-final in a time of 31.50. Jiana Pribylova from the Czech Republish won the first semi-final heat in a time of 31.81 and is the second fastest qualifier.
MEN’S 100m BACKSTROKE - SEMI-FINALS
Pieter Coetze of South Africa popped a 52.95 in the first heat to advance as the top qualifier for tomorrow’s finals. The South African bettered the 53.42 split from his relay lead off in the 4x100m medley relay and was also faster than his gold medal winning performance at the 2022 Commonwealth Games less than a month ago. In tonight’s finals Coetze was out in 25.80, almost a full second ahead of Miroslav Knedla (CZE) in the first 50 and closed the victory with a 27.51 final lap. Poland’s Ksawery Masiuk won the second heat in a time of 53.12 and is second seeded in the final.
I felt really comfortable, and it’s nice to achieve a championship record in the semifinals. Hopefully tomorrow I will just get the win. It’s all about the gold medal here, but I know it’s going to be a tight race
MEN’S 100m BREASTSTROKE SEMIFINAL
Austria’s Luka Mladenovic was the fastest of the 16 swimmers in the water, winning the second heat in a time of 1:01.84 to advance as the top seed. Serbia’s Uros Zivanovic swam 1:02.46 to win the first heat and advance as the second seeded swimmer in this event.
WOMEN’s 100m BACKSTROKE - SEMIFINAL
Sara Curtis of Italy won the second semi-final heat and captured the top seed in a 1:02.08, splitting 29.81 at the 50 and 32.28 in the second half. Hungary’s Dora Molnar was the winner of the first semi-final; her time of 1:02.19 is the second fastest of the evening.
MEN’S 4x100m FREESTYLE RELAY - FINAL
A 47.07 leadoff leg by the fastest man on the planet was the catalyst for a Romanian victory, and the 1.45 second margin on victory over the second place team from France. David Popovici, FINA’s world champion and the newest world record holder in the 100m freestyle split 22.72, more than a second faster than those chasing him in the first lap. His time at the 100m (47.07) relay exchange was yet another championship record, three tenths of a second faster than his lead off (47.37) in the morning preliminaries.
The athletes that struck gold in Otopeni (Romania) at the European Junior Championships in July stood on the top of the podium to watch their country’s flag being raised while listening to their national anthem. A men’s relay has never qualified for an Olympic final, and only once at the 2007 world championships had a ( 4x100m medley ) relay raced.
David Popovici: “I am very happy to see the relay win on the biggest stage yet. We swam well and we like winning together. We are feeling good after this race, and I am happier with relay medals.”
Alexandru Constantinescu: “The energy of the crowd is very good, and we felt their support tonight”
Stefan Cozma: “What can we say, we love David!”
Patrick Dinu: “We had a great day. We love it here, it was amazing to win”
WOMEN’S 4x200m FREESTYLE RELAY - FINAL
Hungary's gold medal performance was an easy one, eclipsing second place Italy by 3.89 seconds. They led from start to finish with Nikolett Padar (1:58.37) the only swimmer faster than 2 minutes; Dora Molnar (2:02.40), Lili Gyurinovics (2:01.51) and anchored by Lilla Minna Abraham (2:02.42)
Nikolett Padar: “It was very good and it feels great to be a world champion.”
Dora Molnar: “I am very proud of the girls for this performance.”
Lili Gyurinovics: “I am proud of how well we swam tonight.”
Lilla Minna Abraham: “It’s exciting to start with a gold medal. We swam very well, and i am excited for the rest of the meet.”