As far as momentum being thrown in the right direction headed into the 2016 Olympic Games, few had more pre-Rio feats of speed than Italian Federica Pellegrini.
The world record holder in both the long course and short course versions of the women’s 200m freestyle, at 28 years of age, it remained to be seen if Pellegrini had another medal-contending swim in her to tackle the likes of America’s Katie Ledecky and Australia’s Emma McKeon in Rio.
Pellegrini started the final Olympic stretch by making her presence known in a big way at last year’s FINA World Championships, where she nabbed a silver medal in the 200m freestyle.
In June of this year, less than 2 months from the Olympic Games’ Opening Ceremony, Pellegrini let her light shine at the 2016 Sette Colli Trophy. While competing in Rome, Pellegrini scorched the field in a new personal best 100m freestyle time of 53.18, a mark which lowered her own National Record. Then, in her specialty, the 200m event, Pellegrini also put the world on notice at the same meet by firing off a swift 1:54.55. That outing represented the Verona native’s quickest time since 2009.
The forward-moving speed Pellegrini was carrying into Rio, along with the fact that she had earned both a silver and a gold 200m free Olympic medal in the 200m freestyle event in 2004 and 2008, respectively, put her in the conversation for 2016 Games podium contention. When all was said and done in Rio’s final, however, Pellegrini’s dedication and perseverance came down to losing out on the bronze medal to McKeon by less than .3 of a second.
Of the fact she fell into the tough spot of 4th place after such positive performances headed into Rio, Pellegrini told Italian media, ‘I feel a bit tired of having to deal with ‘such small margins’ every time, after years of hard training and sacrifice.”
But, the professional athlete acknowledges that, “in swimming, each time you enter the water, we know that you win and lose by tenths. You get there, you do all that is right, but do not take the medal. The anger was so great.”
Preparation-wise, Pellegrini was happy with how things unfolded leading up to the Games. “There was nothing wrong during the year: workouts, races, everything had gone well, I even improved my personal [best].”
There is light at the end of Pellegrini’s tunnel, however, as the Italian looks towards the 2017 World Championship, as well as a potential bid for Tokyo 2020, which would mark her 5th Olympic Games appearance.
“I want to get back to swimming and all the sacrifices that I did last year and then try again,” says Italy’s 2016 Olympic Games flag bearer.
“I need another race, even if winning will be increasingly difficult. If I stopped now I’d have left something outstanding and I do not like to leave things hanging. I have to close this cycle and I hope to do it as I want. “