Paltrinieri On Strategy That Led To 1500 Gold: “I Don’t Have Their Closing Speed”

At this point in his career, Gregorio Paltrinieri is well aware of both his strengths and weaknesses as an athlete.

The 27-year-old Italian is arguably the best male distance swimmer of the last decade, having won Olympic gold in the 1500 freestyle in 2016 while adding back-to-back world titles in the event in 2015 and 2017.

Though he also won the world title in 2019 in the 800 free, a pattern began to emerge in races where he hadn’t broken away from the pack over the course of the race, and left it to a final sprint to determine who would stand on top of the podium.

Paltrinieri wouldn’t be able to match the finishing kick of his opponents, and lose out as a result.

At the 2019 World Championships, this happened in the 1500 free, where he was up with the leaders at the final turn but was ultimately more than two seconds shy of first place when all was said and done.

The same thing happened at the Tokyo Olympics last summer, as Paltrinieri found himself off the podium in the 1500, though he did manage to salvage a silver in the 800 free.

At the 2022 World Championships, Paltrinieri was disappointed with his showing in the 800, once again finding himself left off the podium in fourth. So in the 1500 free, he changed things up.

“During the 800 free everything went wrong,” said the now five-time world champion. “It was a bad race, there is no other way to look at that result.

“Someone may believe it was like in Tokyo after a bad race (1500) I started to go fast from the beginning from a side lane to give myself a chance for a medal. But it was completely different. In Tokyo, I was desperate after having mononucleosis. I started that way to try (and give it) everything, but I didn’t know how it would go.

“In Budapest, I knew I had trained well and that I was in good shape. I had a poor showing in the 800 and was also not pleased with my qualifying heat of the 1500. But in the final I was calm, I knew I could go fast.”

Paltrinieri executed the race strategy he knew he needed to win, getting out to a blistering pace that saw him

Over the course of 30 laps, he managed to hold roughly the same pace all the way through. Factoring out the opening 100 and the last 50, Paltrinieri split between 28.9 and 29.3 27 times. This steady pace led him to a new European Record and the second-fastest performance in history in 14:32.80, trailing Sun Yang‘s world record of 14:31.02 from 2012.

“Sun’s record is not a direct but an indirect goal,” Paltrinieri said. “I always want to improve and by improving I will get closer. For sure we have different characteristics, Sun swam the last 100 meters in 53 seconds, I can’t do it. I need to be 5-6 seconds under his time at the 1400 meters.”

Looking at the difference in splitting between the two, Paltrinieri out-splits Sun on two-thirds of the 50s throughout the 1500 (20 of the 30 laps), including nine straight from the 600 to the 1050-meter mark.

But Sun manages to make up a staggering amount of time, 4.59 seconds, over the final 100. In fact, that time is more than double the amount Paltrinieri gained over the 450-meter stretch where he out-split Sun on every 50 (1.98 seconds).

Split Comparison: Paltrinieri vs Sun

Sun, 2012
Paltrinieri, 2022
27.09 27.00
55.80 (28.71) 55.57 (28.57)
1:25.26 (29.46 1:24.53 (28.96)
1:54.31 (29.05) 1:53.67 (29.14)
2:23.66 (29.35) 2:23.00 (29.33)
2:52.63 (28.97) 2:52.32 (29.32)
3:22.16 (29.53) 3:21.69 (29.37)
3:51.50 (29.34) 3:51.04 (29.35)
4:20.73 (29.23) 4:20.24 (29.20)
4:49.62 (28.89) 4:49.44 (29.20)
5:18.88 (29.26) 5:18.55 (29.11)
5:48.15 (29.27) 5:47.88 (29.33)
6:17.40 (29.25) 6:16.85 (28.97)
6:46.74 (29.34) 6:46.02 (29.17)
7:16.15 (29.41) 7:14.94 (28.92)
7:45.45 (29.30) 7:44.19 (29.25)
8:14.94 (29.49) 8:13.44 (29.25)
8:44.32 (29.38) 8:42.68 (29.24)
9:13.78 (29.46) 9:11.90 (29.22)
9:43.10 (29.32) 9:41.14 (29.24)
10:12.52 (29.42) 10:10.27 (29.13)
10:41.73 (29.21) 10:39.56 (29.29)
11:11.27 (29.54) 11:08.84 (29.28)
11:40.64 (29.37) 11:37.95 (29.11)
12:09.81 (29.17) 12:06.93 (28.98)
12:39.00 (29.19) 12:36.21 (29.28)
13:08.39 (29.39) 13:05.35 (29.14)
13:37.53 (29.14) 13:34.72 (29.37)
14:05.34 (27.81) 14:04.11 (29.39)
14:31.02 (25.68) 14:32.80 (28.69)

Paltrinieri’s rivals in the distance freestyle events right now are clear. In both Tokyo and Budapest, we saw a group of four men separate themselves from the field by a wide margin.

“My main opponents right now are Bobby Finke, Florian Wellbrock, and Mykhailo Romanchuk,” Paltrinieri said.

“Finke has proven to have the best shape in the last two seasons. All three have one last quick lap which I don’t have. Finke has shown that he is faster than anyone at the end of the race.

“My tactic of trying to create a lead and set a fast pace is also based on my opponents, of course, but primarily it’s to find my best performance.”

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1 month ago

“some gave all…he gave some”

Blake pierogi
1 month ago


1 month ago

If there is ever a ‘time trial’ open water event in swimming like how cycling does, Paltrinieri will win it without a doubt because he is so good at just putting the blinders on and swimming away

Last edited 1 month ago by Justhereforfun
Here Comes Lezak
1 month ago

Nothing weird or suspicious about that 53.00 last 100

Reply to  Here Comes Lezak
1 month ago

ok he got convicted of drug use but closing hard doesn’t really prove any of that. if so we’d all be accusing bobby finke for being a drug cheat or some shit

1 month ago

+ 10k patience and mentality, turns 1500 to feel like 200 free.

1 month ago

Insightful, introspective, and honest. I love it!

1 month ago

It feels a bit like we’re in the golden age of men’s distance swimming with these guys throwing down every race

Last edited 1 month ago by chickenlamp
1 month ago

Those 4 distance swimmers have made the 800 and 1500 free fun races to watch.

Finke has a challenge to swim at a faster pace before the last 50 sprint.

Blake pierogi
Reply to  Marklewis
1 month ago

Bobby is definitely getting better so let’s see

About Aglaia Pezzato

Aglaia Pezzato

Cresce a Padova e dintorni dove inizialmente porta avanti le sue due passioni, la danza classica e il nuoto, preferendo poi quest’ultimo. Azzurrina dal 2007 al 2010 rappresenta l’Italia con la nazionale giovanile in diverse manifestazioni internazionali fino allo stop forzato per due delicati interventi chirurgici. 2014 Nel 2014 fa il suo esordio …

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