We The Italians | Italian sport: Aquaman is Italian

Italian sport: Aquaman is Italian

Italian sport: Aquaman is Italian

  • WTI Magazine #153 Jul 24, 2022
  • 501

In just over twenty years, Italian swimming has become a world power. For more than a hundred years, beginning with the Paris 1900 Olympic Games, where the first Italian swimmer participated in the competitions by diving into the Seine, Italy's swimming participated in international competitions as a spectator. We rarely won a medal, and swimming was considered more of a discipline for learning how to swim than a competitive sport.

In 2000 came the turning point, with the first Olympic successes won by Domenico Fioravanti in the 100 and 200 breaststroke and Massimiliano Rosolino in the 200 medley. From that year on, Italy has become one of the leading nations in Europe and among the strongest in the world, with dozens of athletes and female athletes capable of winning medals in every international competition, in every style and over every distance.

Merit also goes to "Divine" Federica Pellegrini, one of the strongest athletes in the history of swimming of all time and a public figure so famous that she dragged thousands of Italians into the pool ready to imitate her. The swimmer from Spinea, Venice, has won everything that can be won for a sportsman and has set an endless series of world records in freestyle.

In 2008 and 2009, the two most successful years for Federica Pellegrini, the champion often trained in Ostia, the sea of Rome, and in the same pool a very young swimmer from Carpi, the town in the province of Modena that was the birthplace of the greatest Italian marathon runner in history, Dorando Pietri, began to make his mark. That young boy's name was Gregorio Paltrinieri, and a few years later he would become "Aquaman," the lord of the waters, like Jason Momoa in James Wan's famous film inspired by the DC Comics superhero.

Born in 1994, a basketball enthusiast and New York Knicks fan, Greg, as he is called by everyone, is a predestined athlete. His father, Luca, was a good blue water swimmer and later ran a pool in Carpi, where Gregorio had started swimming as a child. Gifted with a powerful physique, within a few years he became the strongest swimmer in the world on the long distances of freestyle (800 and 1500 meters), and after winning everything in the pool, he decided to swim in open water as well, tackling the 5- and 10-kilometer races always with success.

Greg's "secret" lies in the "hip driven" swim, meaning his action in the water is driven by his hips, a sign of incredible muscle power, instead of by his hands or shoulders. Once he hits the water, he transforms into a competitive off-shore that for hundreds of meters or even kilometers leaves only a wake for his opponents.

Paltrinieri started winning major competitions as a young boy, and in late June 2022, at the World Championships in Budapest, he achieved yet another medal record by becoming the competition's iconic swimmer. In his career, he has won one Olympic gold medal (Rio de Janeiro 2016), six world titles and 12 European titles between the Olympic and short-tub races, and he holds three European records in the 800- and 1,500-meter freestyle.

In 2021, at the Tokyo Olympic Games, he performed a miracle. Stricken with mononucleosis a few weeks before the Olympic races, he was unable to recover perfect form by having to forfeit the 1500 freestyle race, where he was the favorite to win gold, but he competed in the 800 freestyle race by winning silver and a few days later won bronze in the 10-kilometer open water event, becoming the third swimmer in history capable of winning a medal in the pool and in the sea in the same Olympic edition.

Then in June this year, he showed up at the World Championships in Budapest in top condition and decided to transform himself into "Aquaman" for the occasion. First he won gold in the 1500-meter pool setting a new European record, then he won gold in the 10-kilometer cross-country, silver in the 5-kilometer and bronze in the 4x1500-meter team event. No swimmer in the world has ever succeeded in such a feat, and his achievements have made people all over the world talk about him.

But, as we said at the beginning, Italian swimming is now a superpower not only because of Paltrinieri. At the World Championships in Budapest, Italy finished third with five golds, making it the biggest European swimming power (the medal table was won by the United States ahead of Australia), and in total it won 17 considering cross-country swimming, synchronized swimming and diving. In addition to Paltrinieri's golds, the other Italian winners all achieved epic feats.

The first gold was won by Nicolò Martinenghi, a 22-year-old from Varese, who won the 100-meter breaststroke. Then it was the turn of Thomas Ceccon, the 21-year-old from Thiene, a small town in the province of Vicenza, who won gold in the 100 backstroke, setting a new world record. Then we saw the success of Benedetta Pilato, the baby swimmer from Taranto who at only 17 years old won gold in the 100 breaststroke. Finally, also in the pool, came the most important gold of the competition, that of the Italian 4x100 freestyle relay team composed of Thomas Ceccon, Nicolò Martinenghi, Federico Burdisso and Alessandro Miressi who, for the first time in history, beat the invincible Americans.