David Popovici is the boy who might be king.
For the 17-year-old, the 2021 European Junior Championships in June were a tune-up for the Olympics.
Over six days at the Foro Italico, David claimed victories over 50, 100 – with a world junior record of 47.30 - and 200m freestyle.
In Tokyo, the Romanian was 0.02secs off 200m freestyle bronze in a WJR of 1:44.68 before seventh in the 100m.
He rounded 2021 off with 200m freestyle gold at the European Short-Course Championships for his first senior title.
He is a must-watch swimmer who, despite only turning 17 in September, shows maturity.
He told Brett Hawke’s podcast: “At the blocks, I have my lane, and I’m not looking at other people. It’s just me, the blank noise in my ears and focus, and the (visualization) I have done before the race... In the moment, it’s the hungriest who will win.”
Born in Bucharest, David started swimming aged four to rehabilitate a back problem caused by curvature of the spine.
“I broke the first national record at age 10,” he told FINA. “Since then, I have become addicted to the feeling that the highest place on the podium gives you.”
David, coached in Bucharest by Adrian Radulescu, turned down offers from US universities following Tokyo.
He is on a trajectory that suggests excellence and said: “We have bold plans. I’m not going to go into more detail... For now, we’re taking little steps, but those little steps will bring us one day to (where we want to be).”