At the Dazzling Euros, Italy consolidate their place among the elite nations
The 2021 European Championships took place just 15 months ago, although it seems like an almost different time in swimming. In this meeting, the Italian national team raised eyebrows with 10 gold medals and 44 medals, the best of the competition, winning the swimming team trophy.
A year and three major events later, the Italian renaissance turns out to be anything but a fluke.
In the water at home in Rome at the 2022 European Championships, the Italians caused a sensation again. What began last year in Budapest as glimmers of hope for development have turned into successive waves of excellence.
Italy were the big champions of the competition, with 13 gold medals and 35 medals in total in the pool. Their gold total was equal to the next three nations combined. The 35 medals in total were more than Hungary and Great Britain combined.
Across all disciplines, Italy collected 24 gold medals (Ukraine and Great Britain tied for second with 10 each) and 67 medals overall, eclipsing Great Britain in second place. They are the most in a single European Championship, surpassing Russia’s 23 golds and 47 overall in 2018.
This performance cemented Italy’s place as the second best swimming nation on the continent at present, behind Great Britain. It’s a contender with the depth to place in the top five in the world.
The Tokyo Olympics provided clues. Italy finished with seven medals, fifth in the world. For a country that had just 20 all-time swimming medals, it was a massive comeback, even if it didn’t include a gold medal. It wasn’t like Italy entered the Games with a group of draws – Federica Pellegrini, Gregorio Paltrinieri, same Simona Quadarelle were well known in the swimming community.
The men’s relays were particularly telling: competing against the US, Great Britain and Australia and coming out with silver in the 400m freestyle relay and bronze in the 400m medley was significant.
It was also only the beginning. At the World Championships in Budapest this year, she finished third in the medal table with five gold medals and fourth in total medals with nine. by Thomas Cecon the world record in the men’s 100m backstroke was the obvious headliner, and to tie the European record in the men’s 400m medley relay en route to gold was monstrous. This quartet – Ceccon, Nicolo Martinenghi, Federico Burdisso and Alessandro Miressi – defines the model of emerging celebrity.
The summer of 2022 brings all sorts of caveats. Attentions were divided during the first year of the condensed three-year sprint in Paris. The Commonwealth Games attract the attention of many Britons, members of the best European program of the moment. Russia was obviously absent.
But two years behind Paris, Italy is in a position to pose a threat to the final in just about every event.
The pillars were there. Paltrinieri won gold in the 800m and silver in the 1,500m, plus two open water golds, with her compatriot Dominica Acerenza adding three medals. Ceccon shone on his all-around credentials with gold in the 100 backstroke, silver in the 50 backstroke and gold in the 100 butterfly, plus 400 gold medals in the freestyle relay. Quadarella won two gold medals and a silver in the women’s distance events. Alberto Razetti translated his exceptional short course speed into a pair of IM medals. Martinenghi (the double 50-100) and Bendetta Pilato strengthened their position as preeminent brewers. by Margherita Panziera The 100-200 double back is impressive, overshadowed by the depth of these events in the United States, Canada and Australia.
“It’s beautiful,” Ceccon said after the relay victory. “Someone told me that even the TV cameras were shaking a bit during our race, which had never happened before. The experience of these championships are memories to cherish forever.
Two aspects stand out in particular. The first is by Lorenzo Galossi junior world record in the 800m freestyle. There have been, you may have heard of, a few decent freestyle types that have emerged from the youth ranks in recent years. Galossi came to Rome having dominated the European Junior Championships, with three gold medals and six medals in total. Against the adults, the 16-year-old won bronze in the 800m, breaking a junior world record that Mack Horton had held since 2013 by more than two seconds.
“I’m in shock, it was an amazing race, something we prepared a lot for,” Galossi said. “I’m very happy with the time I achieved because I set a new junior world record and it’s incredible.”
The other is in women’s breaststroke, where Italy risks leaving an exceptional swimmer at home for the next major event. In Rome, Pilato (it’s easy to forget she’s only 17) won gold in the 100 and silver in the 50. Silver in the former went to Lisa Angiolini. Martina Carraro won silver in the 200 breaststroke.
None of these names appeared Arianna Castiglioni, who won silver at Euro 2021 in the 100 breaststroke. Neither was Francesca Fangio, who finished seventh in the event at Worlds.
It’s the kind of depth that only truly elite swimming nations have. And Italy is now in this category.