Michael Phelps is the GOAT. With 28 Olympic medals, which include 23 gold medals, three silver medals, and two bronze medals, he is the most decorated Olympian in history. Despite his glorious career, Phelps has managed to remain grounded and support his younger generation. The swimmer showcased the same when he lauded breakout star David Popovici in a recent interview.
Phelps was all praise for Popovici. The Baltimore Bullet was highly appreciative of the teenager from Romania and stated that he could be the next big thing. Speaking about the 18-year-old, Phelps said that the world record for the men’s LCM 200 free, held by Paul Biedermann, is in jeopardy of being broken by the Romanian.
Michael Phelps hung up his boots in 2016. However, he remains actively involved with the sport and remains an avid follower of younger athletes. He showcased the same when he spoke in detail about David Popovici. Offering his view on Paul Biedermann’s 2009 WR of 1:42.00 being broken, Phelps said that the Romanian youngster was the only person who could do it.
Phelps seems convinced that Popovici has what it takes to bring down the record.
Speaking in an interview with NBC Sports, Michael Phelps said:
“If there’s one person on the planet that goes under 1:42 in the 200 free, it’s probably Popovici… I mean, the kid went 46.9, 47.0, 47.0, 47.1, 47.1, 47.2 in the 100-meter frees this year. I pay attention to all that stuff.”
It is pertinent to note that Paul Biedermann’s WR of 1:42.00 is dubbed to be among the most difficult records to break. Many believed that the record would stand for years to come until Popovici began putting up extraordinary numbers on the chart.
Who is David Popovici?
David Popovici became the star of the year with some stellar performances over the summer. Appearing in all major international competitions, he became a swimming sensation in a short period of time. Born in Bucharest, Popovici began swimming at the age of four, making him a prodigy. He first shot to fame last year when he began breaking records at the age of 17.
The Romanian competitive swimmer, who specializes in freestyle, became the world record holder in the long course of the 100-metre freestyle. He also broke the junior world record over the course of the 200-metre freestyle. Popovici won gold medals in both the men's 100-metre and 200-metre freestyle events at the 2022 World Aquatics Championships. The youngster became the first swimmer to win both titles at the same event since Jim Montgomery in 1973.
His racing pace in the men’s 200-metre freestyle event at the World Championships made fans wonder if he could take down Biedermann’s record in the coming years.
Michael Phelps says he is 'jealous' of Leon Marchand
Apart from Popovici, swimming legend Michael Phelps is also in praise of rising star Leon Marchand. Speaking about the Frenchman, Phelps said that he was excited to see a swimmer ready to challenge his record in the near future.
Marchand coincidentally trains under Phelps’ former coach, Bob Bowman, at Arizona State University. He recently became the only swimmer to crack 4:05 in the LCM 400 IM after Phelps finished 4:04.28 at the World Championships in Budapest.
Addressing the chances of his record being broken by the youngster, Michael Phelps said:
“I’m excited to see a kid come up and challenge that record. That’s what I want. I would love that.”
Interestingly, the GOAT swimmer went on to add that he’s “jealous” of Marchand for being able to compete at a home Olympics in 2024. Phelps never got the opportunity to do so despite attending all the Olympics since he was 15 years old.