David Popovici says racing in front of a home crowd at the European Short Course Championships will be “an honour” with the six-day meet starting on Tuesday in Otopeni, Romania.
Popovici was speaking at a press conference on the eve of the championships alongside Romania teammate Vlad Stancu, three-time European short course champion Andreas Vazaios and Sophie Hansson of Sweden, winner of five World short course medals.
The 19-year-old will return to the same Aquatics Complex of Otopeni where he won four golds and one silver medal at the 2022 European Junior Championships.
The European 100m and 200m freestyle champion was thrilled by the prospect of racing top-class opposition in front of the home fans at the meet which runs from 5-10 December.
He said: “It is the first time that any major championships will have been held in Romania, and it will be an honour to be able to race so many world-class swimmers in front of a home crowd.
“I believe some of the sessions are completely sold out, and I can’t wait to race in front of all the local swimming fans.
“I am looking forward to signing autographs and taking photographs with them, when I have time.”
LIFE-CHANGING EXPERIENCES OF 2022
Popovici was just 17 when he became only the second man to win the 100/200 free double at the World Championships when he achieved that feat at Budapest 2022.
He replicated that success at the European Championships in Rome weeks later while writing his own line in the history books as he set a World record of 46.86 in the 100 free.
Popovici also elevated himself to third all-time in the 200 in 1:42.97, a time eclipsed by only Paul Biedermann and Michael Phelps.
He admits that it was a life-changing experience, saying: “The expectations of others on me are greater, and the expectations of myself have also increased.
“With this comes increased pressure. Pressure is a privilege, I am learning to embrace the additional pressure.”
He added: “But you know, the challenges that I have faced this year are to learn to drive a car, to finish my final high school exams, and to start university.
“I have really enjoyed taking on these challenges. Enjoying your life remains the most important thing.”
“I have not taken myself too seriously, as that can become too stressful, and become too much [to handle].
“I’ve learned to be more honest, more sincere, to speak my mind when I have something valuable to say, and equally to say nothing when not.”
RECORDS, TITLES AND PARIS 2024
Vazaios is seeking his third straight 200IM title after victories at Kazan 2021 and Glasgow 2019 where he set a European record of 1:50.85 that stands today.
The Greek, who is entered into the 100 and 200IM plus relays, will also use Otopeni as his final preparation for his bid for Olympic qualification in the week following the European Short Course Championships.
He said: “This will be my first international race of this Olympic year.
“There will be a lot of opportunities to swim fast before Paris 2024, but this will be an important test to see where I am at.”
He added: “The pool is very fast, I love it. I love short course swimming too as it is so quick.”
“It’s really nice that the water is not so cold. Race temperature is normally very cold so it’s actually a pleasure to swim in this pool. I love it.”
“I want to enjoy this experience, I am really enjoying my swimming at the moment.”
INSPIRING CHILDREN TO SWIM LIKE POPOVICI
Otopeni 2023 Organising Committee President Camélia Potec has been working with the Romanian government on a programme to build new pools across the country with 40 opened in the last six years.
Her dream is for Romanian children to ask their parents to take them to learn to swim like Popovici.
She added: “We are very proud to host these championships in Romania, and in such a world class venue.
“Happy, honoured, really a dream come true.”
You will be able to follow all of the latest news and videos from Otopeni 2023 via the European Aquatics website and social media channels, with LIVE STREAMS available via All Aquatics.