Two big announcements came down today in European swimming, as Clement Lefert announced his retirement via Twitter, and Italy’s Gazzetta del Sul (Sun Gazzette) revealed that Federica Pellegrini and boyfriend Filipo Magnini have chosen a new coach.
First for Lefert, despite having arguably the best season of his career at the perfect time for the Olympics (he was arguably the lynchpin leg for France’s gold-medal winning 400 free relay), is calling it a career at 24 years old. This means that he will not be using his 4th year of eligibility at USC, where he sat out last season to focus on French Trials back home in Europe.
Lefert’s shortened career seems to be the victim of the Olympic cycle; athletes who hit their first games at 24 would then be on the aging end of the spectrum as their second would roll around, though recent history shows that men’s sprinters can certainly remain elite into their late 20′s.
As for Pellegrini and Magnini, they announced two weeks ago that they would be separating from coach Claudio Rossetto after just one season, following disappointing Olympic performances where neither lived up to expectations. Pellegrini was the defending (and reigning) World Champion in both the 200 and 400 freestyles, but failed to medal in either race in London.
Now, the pair will return to Philippe Lucas, with whom Pellegrini trained since the death of her coach Alberto Castagnetti in 2009.
The public reason last year why Pellegrini left Lucas was not displeasure with his coaching, rather she wanted to return home to Italy after training in Lucas’ base in Paris. This time, though, it seems as though Lucas has agreed to move to Italy to work with the star and try to three-peat in the middle-distance freestyles, though she has said publicly that her initial plans will be focusing on the 200 and the Italian 800 free relay.
That 800 free relay is loaded with potential. They finished 7th at the Olympics, even though Pellegrini’s 1:57 anchor in finals wasn’t outstanding. The other three members of the team were Alice Mizzau (18 years old), Alice Nesti (23 years old), and Diletta Carli (16 years old). Even the veteran Pellegrini is just 24 years old, so if that relay can stay together until Rio and continue to improve, they are legitimate medal contenders.
See Chris Morgan’s outstanding feature on Philippe Lucas here: http://swimswam.com/2012/04/survival-of-the-fittest/