Italian freestyler Federica Pellegrini, the world record holder in the 200m free in long course, has expressed interest in racing at a fifth-consecutive Olympic appearance. Pellegrini turned 30 just this summer.
Pellegrini, the first woman under 4:00 in the 400 free and first Italian woman to be an Olympic champion, announced in August that she would be deciding ‘by autumn’ on whether or not she is going to retire from the sport. In a recent interview with Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, which was broken down in a recap by SwimSwam Italia’s Giusy Cisale, she said that she does indeed plan on going forward with a plan for Tokyo.
She and coach Matteo Giunta agreed that (roughly translated from Italian), “after six years I needed to change something in terms of preparation. We have just introduced different and intense exercises, increasing the specific work without weighing the loads: new things to achieve the same goals as before.”
She also said that she was hoping to employ this new plan of quality over quantity, in order to remain in top form without being too broken down when it comes time to race.
Pellegrini won a silver in the 200 free at the 2004 Games as 16-year-old, then her gold came in that event in 2008. In 2012, she fell to 5th in the 200 and 400 free, then just missed the podium with a crushing 4th place finish in 2016 in the 200 free. Then, in a triumphant comeback, Pellegrini edged Katie Ledecky in an upset for the 200 free gold medal at the 2017 World Championships.
When asked if she’d thought about Ledecky and the Olympic schedule, as the 200 free final and 1500 free final will be in the same session in Tokyo, Pellegrini said, “Yes, but the final of the 200 comes first… and in any case I do not think only of her, but of all the young people who sprout, the others are the real danger.”
For the near future, Pellegrini says she’ll compete at the upcoming Nico Sapio Trophy in Italy as well as the Italian Winter Nationals, but while she’s been pre-selected for the 2018 World SC Championships, she hasn’t made a decision yet on whether she’ll race there. It’s also unclear what events she’s focusing on for Tokyo, but recent event lineups and her 2017 200 free gold would suggest the 200 free is of primary focus, along with the 100 free and relay duties.