Italians Off To Strong Start At World Juniors After Lackluster Worlds Showing


Despite sitting down in 9th on the official medal table, the Italian team has had an impressive start to the 2023 World Junior Swimming Championships.

Italy sits so far down on the table due to the fact they’ve yet to secure a gold medal, but in terms of total medals they rank only behind the U.S. and Australia, matching Canada’s total with six.

Leading the Italian charge has been Alessandro Ragaini, who has been on fire with a pair of silver medal performances in the boys’ 200 and 400 free.

Ragaini, 17, won a medal in the opening event of the competition, placing second to Bulgaria’s Petar Mitsin in the 400 free in a time of 3:46.66 to demolish his personal best time of 3:48.42 set in July at Euro Juniors.

Filippo Bertoni, also 17, crushed his PB by nearly two seconds in 3:48.73, winning the bronze medal after coming in having never cracked 3:50 (3:50.45 best time).

One night later, Ragaini clocked 1:47.28 in the 200 free to break Lorenzo Galossi‘s Italian Junior Record of 1:47.42, also lowering his PB of 1:47.76 from Euro Juniors, to again take second, this time behind Australian Flynn Southam. Bertoni added a PB of 1:48.42 to place 6th.

Other individual medalists thus far have been Christian Bacico in the boys’ 100 back and Paola Borrelli in the girls’ 200 fly.

Bacico, who was the runner-up at Euro Juniors in the 100 back in a then-best time of 54.36, had the fastest back-half in the field in the 100 back final to claim bronze in a lifetime best of 54.08, a time he managed to dip under leading off Italy’s mixed 400 medley relay later in the session.

Borrelli cracked 2:11 for the first time in the final of the 200 fly, touching in 2:10.89 to claim bronze after she missed out on the podium by .01 at the Euro Juniors in July.

In the mixed medley relay, Bacico (53.90), Christian Mantegazza (1:01.60), Borrelli (59.31) and Matilde Biagiotti (55.28) combined for a time of 3:50.09 to snag bronze over the Canadian team (3:50.51), with the Italians having led throughout the majority of the race after the U.S. and Australia opted to use female swimmers on backstroke.

And although the mixed medley marks Italy’s lone relay medal thus far, they’ve finished 4th in the other three team events, with the U.S., Australia and Canada holding down the podium.

Four Italian swimmers qualified for an individual final on Day 4 in Wednesday night’s semis: Francesca Zucca (3rd, girls’ 100 breast), Lorenzo Ballarati (3rd, boys’ 50 free), Davide Passafaro (t-6th, boys’ 50 free) and Bacico (7th, boys’ 50 back).

The promising Italian showing in Netanya comes after a relatively poor performance at the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka, where Italy fell down to 10th on the medal table with just one gold medal and six in total.

That came after they had a much better showing in 2022, where they won five golds and nine total medals.

The reasoning behind the lackluster showing in Fukuoka is believed to be due to the Italians keeping up a hectic schedule for an extended period time, having gone straight from the 2020 (held in 2021) European Championships into the Tokyo Olympics, then onto the ISL, the European SC Championships and SC World Championships to close out the year. They then took on the LC World Championships in Budapest and had to follow up by performing well on home soil at the 2022 European Championships in August.

After so much competition, it appears as though training suffered and the results showed in Fukuoka, and unlike a nation like the U.S., the Italians don’t have a pool of NCAA swimmers that can seamlessly take over and compete on the international stage.

But the burgeoning junior talent in Italy is certainly coming, based on what we’ve seen so far in Netanya, and there should be more to come over the final three days of the meet.

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About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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