Melbourne : Popovici among star cast for world championships. But the swimming's new teenage sensation insists he will be an underdog in the event.

Swimming's new teenage sensation David Popovici insists he will be an underdog at the World Short Course Championships in Australia this week, saying he's still looking to gain experience.

The 18-year-old Romanian is the sport's hottest young prospect and a head line draw at the event in Melbourne from Tuesday.

His star had rapidly risen after a phenomenal year that saw him smash the course 100, freestyle world record, touching in 46.86 seconds at the European Championships in August.

It sliced 0.05 sec off the old mark held by Brazilian Cesar Cielo since 2009, set in the era of buoyant body suits.

The heroics came after Popovici became the first man to complete the 100m/200m freestyle double at the World Championships in nearly 50 years, burgeoning his reputation as early gold medal favorite for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

But short course swimming, held in a 25-metre pool instead of the usual 50, with more emphasis on the turns, is not something he's accustomed to.

''I don't think it's a bluff to say that I don't like swimming short course events, I am sort of built for long course competition,'' he said on the eve of the championships.

''The turns and starts are more intense in short course, so this is a great opportunity to gather information and to gain experience and to be the best version that I can be.''

Popovici's showdown over 100m with Australian world record holder Kyle Chalmers is set to be a highlight. But the Romanian is not getting his hopes up ''Surely there is a rivalry between me and Kyle, but I think the rivalry is only in long course,'' he said.

''My goal is to qualify for the final, and as well all know, once you have a lane, you have a chance.''

Melbourne is holding the championship as a late replacement for Russia, which was stripped of hosting rights after several national swimming federations said they would boycott the event.

Australia has a strong team on home soil featuring a slew of Olympic gold medallists, spearheaded by Emma McKeon and Kaylee McKeown. Women's 100m freestyle world champion Mollie O'Callaghan will also suit up.

Canada's squad is led by Maggie MacNeil, defending champion in women's 50 back and 100 butterfly, while Adam Peaty spearheads the British contingent after a difficult long-course season when he fractured his foot.

The American roster features several reigning short course champions, including Nic Fink [50 and 200m breaststroke] and Shaine Casas [100m backstroke]. [AFP]


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