Federica Pellegrini received the Leone del Veneto (Lion of Venice) award at the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista in Venice, Italy on January 11th. Pellegrini is the first woman to receive this award, given out by the regional council to a Venitian citizen who has distinguished themselves in professional or humanitarian endeavors. The award was established in 1999 and was most recently awarded to Federico Faggin for his role in the creation of the first microprocessor.
Pellegrini, has fittingly been nicknamed the Lioness of Verona, because she trained in Verona but hailed from Venice, where the Lion of St. Mark is in the city Coat of Arms.
She is the defending world champion in the 200 free, having won the event at the World Championships last year. This victory marked her 6th Worlds Championship gold, with four of them coming in the 200 free. She is a two time Olympic medalist, having won silver in Athens (2004) and gold in Beijing (2008), both of these medals coming in the 200 free. In winning silver in Athens she became the youngest Olympic medalist in Italy’s history at just 16 years old. She would go on to become to first Olympic swimming champion for the country with her victory in Beijing.
She has now medalled in the 200 free at 8 consecutive long course World Championship events and is the only Italian swimmer to set a World Record in more than one event.
Pellegrini’s fame in her native country extends beyond the pool: she served as a judge on season 7 of Italia’s Got Talent. She has 1.1 million followers on Instagram and almost 750,000 followers on Twitter.
So far this season she holds the 5th fast time in the world in the 100 free, having taken second in the event at the Tokyo stop of the FINA World Cup in a time of 53.40. She is currently preparing for her 5th Olympics where she will look to return to the podium after finishing fourth in the 200 free in Beijing. While rumors have circulated that she may attempt to qualify for the 2024 Olympics in Paris, her camp has been quick to shut these down stating that while she may have joked about it, her intent is to retire following this summer’s Olympics.