David Popovici continued his dream summer of swimming yesterday by easing into the 100m freestyle final at the European Swimming Championships with a new European record of 46.98 seconds, while world champion Nicolo Martinenghi won the 100m breaststroke.
Teen sensation Popovici looked in fine form earlier yesterday when he easily won his heat and delighted fans by finishing over a second ahead of Italian Lorenzo Zazzeri.
Only two other swimmers managed to dip under 48sec, Kristof Milak and Alessandro Miressi in the other semi, but both were some way off 17-year-old Romanian Popovici.
“It’s a fine route to the final and a step in the right direction. It feels normal for me to go step-by-step and keep improving my time,” said Popovici.
Popovici, who in June became the first man to complete the 100-200m freestyle double at the World Championships in nearly 50 years, will now compete in today’s final.
After yesterday’s display he will be hot favourite to continue what has been a golden summer in which he also won three European junior titles in his home town of Bucharest.
Martinenghi was a double gold winner at the Budapest worlds and got the home crowd roaring in Rome with a time of 58.26 seconds in his final, beating countryman Federico Poggio by 0.72sec.
Andrius Sidlauskas took the bronze for Lithuania.
The 23-year-old’s win was one of three golds for Italy in yesterday’s evening session at the Foro Italico.
Margherita Panziera won the 200m backstroke while Thomas Ceccon claimed the honours in the 50m butterfly.
“This victory means a lot to me. This season has been a very long one and I’m not in my best shape, but it was important to continue winning,” Martinenghi said.
Ukraine’s Marta Fiedina followed up on her artistic swimming team technical gold by winning the solo technical discipline, pipping local hope Linda Cerutti in the final moments.
Also double gold winner at the recent worlds, Fiedina was the last to take to the pool and won over the judges to earn a score of 92.6394, 1.7555 points ahead of Cerutti who had been leading since finishing her routine as fifth of 21 participants.
“I really gave everything I could at this moment. This is my best performance in Technical Solo this year, for sure,” said the champion. Giorgio Minisini won the European championships inaugural men’s edition of the solo technical with a score of 85.7033, the Italian finishing over six points ahead of Spain’s Fernando Diaz Del Rio Soto.
Romania’s David Popovici competes in the 100m freestyle during the LEN European Aquatics Championships in Rome. (AFP)