Margherita Panziera: ‘No Excuses But Cytomegalovirus Held Me Back In 2019’

Margherita Panziera on her way to 200m backstroke gold in an Italian record at the European Short-Course Championships in Glasgow -Photo Courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer

Margherita Panziera‘s 2019 season was hit by cytomegalovirus, Italy’s European backstroke champion reveals in a newspaper interview with La Nuova di Venezia e Mestre.

Panziera, the European long-course 200m backstroke champion in 2018, was not far off her best at the World Championships in Gwangju, Korea, back in July. Even so, after a summer break, she was still not feeling her old self. Tests taken between June and September revealed the presence of the virus. She tells the paper:

“In September, I was tested and found that in June I had cytomegalovirus, so I was debilitated for quite some time. It’s definitely not an excuse, but in Korea, I was not in top form.”

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus. Once infected, the body retains the virus for life. Most people don’t know they have CMV because it rarely causes problems in healthy people. If the immune system is weakened for any reason, the virus can break out, fatigue among symptoms.

In July, after clocking 2:06.62 for third best through to the 200m backstroke final in World-championship semis that witnessed a 2:03.35 World record from American Regan Smith, Panziera finished fourth in 2:06.67, 0.05sec shy of the podium (100m champion Kylie Masse, of Canada, claimed bronze) and 0.41sec shy of silver (Australian Kaylee McKeown), Smith a world apart on 2:03.69 for the crown.

Panziera now says she is “hot and thirsty for revenge” on the circumstance that held her back run 2019, telling La Nuova:

“I want the failure to medal at the worlds to drive me on in Tokyo.”

That desire manifested itself with three lifetime bests at the European short-course championships in Glasgow last month. Panziera, who is reading Marketing at the Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali “Guido Carli” (Luiss) private university in Rome, ended her year with gold, courtesy of victory in the 200m backstroke at the European Short Course Championships in December. There were also personal bests in the 100m backstroke and 200m freestyle.

Panziera, who celebrated New Year in Malta, describes her coming season of intense training under the guidance of Italy head coach Stefano Morini on foreign tour at altitude in the United States as “seven months of intense beauty”.

The 24-year-old will be on camp with other Italian Olympic-medal hopefuls, including Rio 2016 1500m free gold medallist Gregorio Paltrinieri and World 1500m free champion Simona Quadarella.

A second high-altitude camp is on the cards for the Italians in June.

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