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Pose From Pellegrini; Turrini Turns Heads

Apr 12, 2013  - Craig Lord

That's more like it: an Italian championship without Federica Pellegrini at the helm of the 200m freestyle would be like an Italian lunch without the family round. 

Her time in Riccione today, 1:56.51, was faster than she swam in the final at the London 2012 Games (1:56.73), the possibility of her defending a world crown she first won in 2009 and kept in 2011 weak but not buried. Her splits - 27.85, 57.26, 1:26.89 and 1:56.51 reflected three all-but metronomic last laps: 29.42, 29.62 and 29.63.

If Pellegrini stole the limelight among women, then Federico Turrini turned heads again among men. Racing for Centro Sportivo Esercito/Nuoto Livorno, he claimed his third gold of the meet with a 1:58.86 victory in the 200 metres medley (25.95, 55.60, 1:30.23), the time rattling the Italian record that has stood at 1:58.33 to Alessio Boggiatto since the Roma 2009 world shiny suit champs.

Turrini's time, however, is the fastest ever in a textile suit by an Italian: the first effort to get past the 1:58.98 in which Massi Rosolino took the Olympic crown at Sydney 2000. Turrini's best had been a 1:59.64, from nationals a year ago. Victory added to a Riccione treasury of gold in the 400IM and 200m backstroke.

The silver went to breaststroke ace Fabio Scozolli, Centro Sportivo Esercito/Imolanuoto, in 2:01.15, the bronze to Davide Cova, SMGM Team Nuoto Lombardia, in 2:02.05.

Gregorio Paltrinieri, GS Fiamme Oro Roma/Coopernuoto, and fellow 18-year-old Gabriele Detti, Centro Sportivo Esercito/SMGM Team Nuoto Lombardia, endured another battle in the 1500m freestyle, their tussle taking them both inside 15mins. The crown went to Paltrinieri, the man at the helm on every split in the race on his way to a 14:55.10 victory ahead of Detti's 14'58.78. The bronze went to Loca Baggio, GS Fiamme Azzurre/Circolo Canottieri Napoli, in 15:07.04.

The Italians are the 3rd and 4th men inside 15mins this season and made their nation the first with two in the club. Better than Olympic silver medallist Ryan Cochrane, on 14:59.73 at Canadian trials last week, they lag the 14:48.10 leading effort of Olympic champion Sun Yang (CHN) at his nationals last Monday.

At the other end of the spectrum, Marco Orsi, GS Fiamme Oro Roma/CN UISP - Bologna, claimed the freestyle dash crown in a 21.98 to 22.03 victory over Luca Dotto, GS Forestale/Larus Nuoto, the bronze going to Federico Bocchia, Centro Sportivo Esercito/Nuoto Club 91 Parma, in 22.29.

In Pellegrini's final, the champion from Circolo Canottieri Aniene challenged her domestic rivals from go, Alice Mizzau, Gr.Nuoto Fiamme Gialle/Plain Team Veneto the only one close, on 57.47 at the half-way turn on the way to silver in 1:58.67. The bronze went to Martina De Memme, Centro Sportivo Esercito/Nuoto Livorno, in 2:00.24, Diletta Carli, 2:00.48, Chiara Luccetti, 2:00.72, and Stefania Pirozzi, 2:00.93 all in line for possible 4x200m action come world titles in Barcelona.

Whether Pellegrini will stick with a 2013 season self-pledge to race the 200m for relays but steer clear of top-flight solo challenges on freestyle remains to be seen. But Italy is at peace this evening safe in the knowledge that its swimming icon has not given up the freestyle fight. 

To say that Pellegrini has dominated the 200m free in Italy since taking silver at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games is an understatement: she holds the best 32 times ever in her country, Alice Mizzau then slips in with two efforts a snip inside 1:58 and then its Pellegrini again all the way down to No40, which happens to be the 1:58.22 in which she made her first Olympic podium as the Greek capital welcome the Games back home.

Its been a long and impressive journey since she was known as "The Lioness of Verona". In Beijing Pellegrini missed her mark in her opening event, the 400m free and found herself locked out of the medals but held her nerve and came back for the 200m with steely intentions: she claimed gold in 1:54.82. A year later at the heart of the shiny suits crisis, she left the 200 and 400m free world records at 1:52.98 and 3:59.15 in front of a home crowd in Rome.

There was no denying her dominance, in any suit, though the sport awaits yet its first true sub 1:53 200 and sub-4min 400, such was the slip of suits sunk on January 1, 2010. In 2011, Pellegrini retained both her crowns, in 1:55.58 and 4:01.97. It looked for all the world as though she would carry her golden glow to London but it was not to be: 1:56.73 and 4:04.50 were times too tame for the third Games in the British capital, Allison Schmitt (USA) on 1:53.61, a textile world best, for 200 gold and Camille Muffat (FRA) on 4:01.45 for 400 gold after setting the fastest ever time in textile at French trials on 4:01.13.

This season, Pellegrini - taking a break from top-flight freestyle battles in the wake of events in 2012 - has turned to backstroke (2:08.06 over 200m this week) as the backyard in which she will keep fit and get fresh for a a possible return to the battle she so often commanded.

Pellegrini returned to the fray at the end of the session, on backstroke (1:02.07) for Canottieri Aniene A team's 4x100m medley quartet, a 4:06.69 good for silver behind Centro Sportivo Esercito's 4:06.43. 

In the men's 4x100m medley, Canottieri Aniene Aclaimed the title in 3:37.10 ahead of GS Fiamme Oro Roma, 3:37.39, and Centro Sportivo Esercito, 3:38.19, Turrini bringing the latter home in 48.99.