Giusy Cisale contributed to this report.
Italian swimmer Federica Pellegrini swam her best short course meters 200 free in over a year over the weekend at a meet in her home city of Verona. The swim came after 20 days spent in altitude training in Font Romeu, France.
Pellegrini swam a 1:53.52, winning the race by 8-and-a-half seconds.
That ranks as the 15th-best swim of her decorated career, and her fastest since a 1:52.88 that earned her a silver medal at hte 2019 European Short Course Championships.
Pellegrini arrived late for the International Swimming League season in 2020 after becoming infected with the coronavirus before her planned departure. Her best time in the 200 free during the league season was just 1:55.10 in November, though she improved to a 1:54.32 at a domestic event in December.
The 32-year old Pellegrini, who has declared the Tokyo Olympic Games to be her last, is both the current World Record holder in the 200 free in long course and the two-time defending World Champion. She is a former World Record holder in the event in short course as well, though Sarah Sjostrom has held that mark since 2014.
In her first meet of the year, in Geneva, Switzerland, Pellegrini swam 1:59.07 in the 200 free in long course.
Pellegrini isn’t the only Italian star swimmer to show up at the meet in Verona, which was mostly for local youth swimmers. 20-year old Thomas Ceccon, a 2018 Summer Youth Olympic champion in the 50 free, also made an appearance, and swam a new personal best in the 200 free in short course of 1:44.38.
His prior best time of 1:45.43 was done in 2018.
Best known as a backstroker, Ceccon told SwimSwam Italia exclusively in February that he would try to qualify for the Olympic team in the 100 fly as well. This 200 free now further shows off his growing versatility.
He has only been 1:52.03 in long course in the 200 free.
Other members of the Italian National Team raced at smaller regional meetings around the country over the weekend too.
Teen breaststroke phenom Benedetta Pilato raced in Taranto, where she swam 2:26.70 (also in short course). That’s a 12-second improvement from her previous best of 2:38.72 in 2018. Pilato was the 2019 World Championships silver medalist in the 50 breaststroke at just 14 years old, but with that not an Olympic event she’s been working on improving her endurance toward Tokyo. Given that her underwaters are a relatively-weak part of her race, those big drops in short course (with more turns) are an especially-good sign. Her long course best in the 200 breast is a 2:56.86.
One of Pilato’s primary competitors, Arianna Castiglioni, swam the 100 breaststroke in long course in Lodi, where she marked a 1:06.55: just .16 seconds short of her lifetime best from the 2019 World Championships. That’s the #1 time in the world during the 2021 calendar year and the 3rd-ranked time of the season behind only December swims of 1:06.02 from Pilato and 1:06.40 from China’s Tang Qianting.
Italy now boasts 3 of the top 4 breaststrokers in the world this season: Martina Carraro ranks 4th in 1:06.58.
Castiglioni also swam the 50 breastsatroke, marking at ime of 30.70.
Other Results from Italian Olympic Hopefuls:
- Ilaria Cusinato, also in Verona, swam the 400 IM in 4:34.25 and the 800 free in 8:32.80. The 21-year old was the double European silver medalist in long course in the 200 IM and 400 IM in 2018. She has raced sparingly relative to her Italian teammates over the last year, though that IM swim was her best since the 2019 European Championships. In December, she swam 4:36.48 in short course in the 400 IM. Her only recent long course result, from December’s Italian Open Championships, was 4:41.83.
- Also in Lodi in long course, Nicolo Martinenghi swam 1:00.30 in the 100 breaststroke, Filippo Magnini swam 51.02 in the 100 freestyle, Andrea Vergani swam 22.73 in the 50 free, and Matteo Rivolta swam 24.19 and 52.98 in the 50 and 100 butterfly, respectively,
- Elena Di Liddo swam a short course 54.50 in the 100 free in Puglia in long course.
- Mattia Alessandro swam a 1:55.77 in the 200 short course backstroke in Genoa, which is a Regional Record and undercuts his previous best time of 1:56.84. Alessandro, who has a long course best of 2:03 at just 18-years old, will hope to supplement an event where the Italians are not very good at the moment. Matteo Restivo was the country’s only entrant in the 200 back at the World Championships in 2019, and he placed just 14th.