The 17-year-old broke the previous record, set by Brazilian Cesar Cielo in 2009, by 0.05 seconds as he took gold ahead of Hungary’s Kristof Milak and Italy’s Alessandro Miressi.
Popovici, who was crowned world champion in the 100m and 200m freestyle earlier this year, becomes the youngest world record holder in the 100m freestyle event.
“A fantasy now might be a 45 (second time),” he added. “Adam Peaty is a pioneer in terms of the goals he set. For others it was science fiction, but not for him.”
British swimmer Peaty set himself the benchmark of becoming the first man to swim the 100m breaststroke in under 57 seconds during his career — a feat he achieved when he broke his own record in 2019.
The prospect of a new 100m freestyle record looked likely when Popovici broke the 47-second barrier for the first time in the semifinals on Friday. After his record-breaking swim the following day, he was congratulated by Cielo.
“Congratulations, Popovici! Glad to have had this huge record for so long!
“There is the new fastest man in the world in the 100 meters freestyle and he is just getting started!”