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Roma 2022: David Popovici breaks 13-year-old 100m free world record

Popovici sets a new 100m freestyle world record, while world champions Benedetta Pilato, Gregorio Paltrinieri and Sarah Sjöström claim European golds


David Popovici added a stunning world record - and a maiden European title - to his rapidly growing honours list with a breath-taking victory in the Roma 2022 100m freestyle final .

The 17-year-old Romanian, who claimed two breakthrough World titles in June, set a championship record in the 100m free heats and followed that with a European record in the semi-finals.

The world record 46.91 had stood since 2009 when it was set by Brazilian Cesar Cielo in the same Foro Italico venue at the Fina World Championships.

Although surprisingly trailing to Frenchman Maxime Grousset at the halfway stage Popovici surged ahead in the second 50 and by finishing in 46.86 he knocked 0.05 secs off the previous landmark time.

200m butterfly world record holder Kristof Milak produced a highly impressive 47.47 second swim for silver, with Italian Alessandro Miressi claiming bronze.

“It (the world record), wasn’t a priority but the atmosphere helped me,” Popovici told LEN TV. “It is an honour and helpful thing (to have the attention of the fans) and yeah it’s great to have beaten it (the world record) here."


World champion Benedetta Pilato was the quickest-qualifier and unsurprisingly the overwhelming pre-race favourite for gold.

The 17-year-old delivered a trademark stunning first 50m, but while the chasing pack did narrow the gap in the closing stages the Italian clung on to claim her first 100m European title. Team-mate Lisa Angiolini was second, with Ruta Meilutyte third.

“I’m this is amazing and we have gold and silver so we are very happy,” said Pilato. “It wasn’t my best time, but the atmosphere was very beautiful tonight.”


Gregorio Paltrinieri dominated this event at the 2014 and 2016 European Championships before finishing as the runner up in both the 2018 and 2020 editions.

Roared on by a capacity crowd of over 7,000 in the venue though he had the perfect fuel to return to the top of the podium in the event – and he would achieve that dream.

He powered ahead in the early stages and despite pressure from Ukraine’s Mykhaylo Romanchuk and Lukas Maertens of Germany during the final, he was ultimately a comfortable winner in seven minutes 40.86 seconds – a new championship record.

Maertens would take second with Lorenzo Galossi’s late charge securing bronze for the Italian.

“It’s incredible, so crazy and amazing to win here where it feels like home,” Paltrinieri told LEN TV.


Sarah Sjöström won the 50m butterfly title at the 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 editions of the European Champions but was forced to miss Budapest 2020 after breaking her elbow.

The 28-year-old Olympic gold medallist reclaimed her European crown though with a dominant performance, touching in 24.96 seconds.

Matie Wattel of France (25.33) and Dutch swimmer Maaike de Waard took silver and bronze respectively.

“It’s amazing to be on the top of the podium again in the 50m butterfly,” Sjöström told LEN TV. “I’m also happy to do my fastest time in the final in front of this crowd.”


Frenchman Yohann Ndoye Brouard was forced to swim a solo time-trial at the end of day two after a starting ledge malfunction in the semi-finals, but despite that setback he was the second quickest qualifier for the 200m backstroke final.

There he produced a powerful performance and secured his maiden major international gold medal with victory in a personal best of 1:55.62 seconds.

Benedek Kovacs of Hungary took silver with Britain’s Luke Greenback battling back from an agonising fourth place finish at the Commonwealth Games two weeks ago to secure bronze.

“It’s incredible, I did not expect that, so I’m really proud for me and my country,” Ndoye Brouard told LEN TV. “It was hard work mentally (after the semi-final), but I can deal with that and this is a big result for me.”


Legendary Hungarian Katinka Hosszu was expected to be looking for a fifth 400m IM European crown, but although she was the fourth quickest qualifier from the heats, she finished behind two fellow Hungarian swimmers.

With only two permitted to progress Hosszu supported from the stands as teenage rising star Viktoraia Mihalyvari-Farkas claimed her first major international title and team-mate Zsusanna Jakabos joined her on the next step of the podium.

Britain’s Freya Colbert added to her impressive breakthrough season with bronze.


The final event of the night – the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay – looked to be heading the way of Sweden who lead after each of the first three legs.

However, Britain’s Freya Anderson is a specialist at bringing home relay golds for her nation and she endured the British women would retain the title they won at Budapest 2020.

Sweden took silver with the Netherlands completing the podium places.

“We’ really happy with that,” GB’s Anna Hopkin told LEN TV. “We didn’t know how we’d line-up against all the other teams after a tiring year, but I’m really proud that we defended our title and came out with a win.”

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