REPORTAGE. Championnats d’Europe de natation 2022 : neuf mois après sa retraite, “la Divina” Federica Pellegrini reste une icône en Italie

REPORTAGE. Championnats d'Europe de natation 2022 : neuf mois après sa retraite, "la Divina" Federica Pellegrini reste une icône en Italie

When it appears on the giant screen of the Olympic Nautical Stadium in Rome on Saturday August 13, the main pool ceases to be the center of interest for the thousands of spectators present. Since “Faith, Faith, FaithThen go up from the stands, in honor of the legend Federica Pellegrini.

The 34-year-old Italian, retired since December 2021, is the godmother of these European Championships. The Eternal City occupies an important place in her career: she triumphed there 13 years ago, with two gold medals (in the 400 and 200m free) and a world record at stake.

The native of Mirano, near Venice, he has become an icon in a country that often reveres its footballers and Scuderia Ferrari. Wherever Pellegrini goes, crowds form to take a selfie with the champion, say a word or just smile. When the meetings are organized, like on Sunday at the Foro Italico, the autograph session is sometimes excessive. The tail can stretch for tens of meters.

Of course, other Italian swimmers have made history. Domenico Fioravanti (double Olympic champion in 2000 in the 100 and 200 m breaststroke), Massimiliano Rosolino (Olympic champion in 2000 in the 200 m medley) and Novella Calligaris (world champion in 1973 in the 800 m) are part of the “Walk of Fame “and thus have their names inscribed on plaques on the ground before entering the Foro Italico. But none burst the limits of the pool as “Fede” did.

His career has a lot to do with it. Arrived at the age of 14 in international pools, the Italian won six world titles (eleven medals in total), two Olympic charms, including one in gold, or even seven European coronations in the long pool. He still holds the world record for the 200m freestyle.

The swimmer Federica Pellegrini, flag bearer of the Italian team during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Rio (Brazil), on August 5, 2016. (FRANCK FIFE / AFP)

But beyond the sporting aspect, Valerio Piccioni, a journalist from the Gazzetta dello SportThe resilience of the flag bearer of the Italian team during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games stands out in particular. “She hasn’t always won in her life, as an athlete and as a woman. She is a human champion with her strengths and her weaknesses. She started very early. The public watched her grow, win and lose. People also saw it, it’s still standing despite everything.”

“Federica Pellegrini is a bit of a friend of Italian families.”

Valerio Piccioni, journalist for the “Gazzetta dello Sport”

on franceinfo: sport

In the private sphere, her tumultuous love affairs with swimmers Luca Marin and Filippo Magnini made headlines… winning her first long course title in 2008 at the European Championships in Eindhoven. For three years, he reigned in world swimming, including the title at the Beijing Olympics in the 200-meter freestyle. Less sovereign since 2012, she lost her World and Olympic titles before regaining the No. 1 spot from her in 2017 in the 200m free (Budapest), a feat she repeated in 2019 in Gwangju, her last world title.

“I am leaving in peace after having lived so many incredible moments. It was a beautiful trip that I loved from start to finish”, she said at the time of her last Olympic final, in Tokyo, in July 2021. In fact, the one who has been a judge on the television program “Italy’s Got Talent” since 2018 has opened the doors of swimming to the general public. . Even today, if you scrutinize the performances of Italy, a glance at all the daily sports and general information of the country is enough to verify that the news of the nicknamed “the divine” (“the divine”) continues to be closely watched.

Nine months after his withdrawal from the basins, Philippe Lucas’s former protégé has opened a gap and must pass the torch. There are many suitors to replace her. If the Italian star Gregorio Paltrinieri has the trajectory and the charisma to succeed him, the posters had only one name displayed during this Roman week: that of Benedetta Pilato.

From the height of her 17 years, her adolescent face hides a strong character reminiscent of Federica Pellegrini. Not to mention an already well-stocked track record. She reigning world and European champion in the 100 m breaststroke, she holds the world record in the 50 m breaststroke.

If the Olympic Nautical Stadium is like a cauldron about to explode with every step of the Italians, the young woman from Taranto (Puglia) raises the decibels to especially high levels. However, even at the beginning of the “Benedetta era”, Queen “Fede” is not forgotten.

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