Why Federica Pellegrini’s 200 Free Victory Isn’t All That Surprising

Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

Editorial Coverage provided by Suit-extractor-logo

by Taylor Brien, Swimming World staff writer. 

Some were shocked, but all were awed by the amazing race unfolding in the Budapest Duna Arena. Katie Ledecky and Emma McKeon were barreling towards the finish in the 200 free, but an unexpected Federica Pellegrini was closing in from behind.

The 28-year-old Italian had shifted gears in the final 50-meters to blitz past both Ledecky and McKeon for gold. She would stop the clock at a 1:54.73, leaving Ledecky and McKeon to tie for silver with matching 1:55.18s.

Following the excitement of an upset race were questions of what went wrong for Ledecky, but the continually missing question appeared to be “what went right for Pellegrini?” For the last five years Ledecky had been dominant on the international scene, claiming gold in every individual race she entered, but before Ledecky’s dominance had begun, Pellegrini’s had already been etched in stone.


Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

In 2004, a young 16-year-old stepped onto the scene in Athens and became the youngest Italian athlete to win an Olympic medal, with a silver medal in the 200 free. That success continued through the next several years as Pellegrini took in medals at both the 2005 and 2007 World Championships.

She arrived in Beijing hungry for more. She would go on to lower the world record in the 200 free twice en route to earning her first Olympic gold medal, all while fighting the disappointment of finishing fifth in the 400 free.

The success spiraled from there as Pellegrini would go on to claim gold (and another world record) at the 2009 World Championships, following up that success with a second gold in 2011. Post 2011 saw the blossoming of the effervescent Missy Franklin and the unexpected emergence of Ledecky edging Pellegrini from the top, but she didn’t go far.

While some would call Pellegrini’s lack of gold for the next six years disappointing, she never left the podium, returning to the top once again last night.


Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

Her most recent gold marks the seventh straight 200 free medal from a World Championship, making her the first male or female swimmer to medal in the same singular event for seven straight World Championships. That statistic alone solidifies her as one of the greats in a sport that is continually evolving.

Throughout her career Pellegrini has downed a total of nine world records (400 LCM free x3, 200 SCM free x2, and 200 LCM free x6), been named Swimming World’s World Swimmer of the Year in 2009, European Swimmer of the Year from 2009-2011, and was the first woman to break the four-minute mark in the long course version of the 400 free.

Today Pellegrini’s 200 free world record of 1:52.98 stands un-touched with a 1:53.61 by Allison Schmitt the closest anyone has come to her elusive world record.

For the last 13 years Pellegrini has stood as an inspiration to those around her, fighting through the pains of loss and never giving up on her dream of returning to golden victory. Was last night’s victory unexpected? Yes. But was it a completing surprising victory? Pellegrini’s history speaks volumes and the answer is no.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.



  1. avatar

    I think Federica could win some more gold medals at the Olympic Games (from Athene 2004 to Rio 2016, one gold and one silver is not a great thing)

    In The World Championshisp She has a great record: 5 +1* gold, 4 +2* silver, 1+4* bronze
    In the European Championships the score is amazing: 7+7* Gold, 4+2* Silver , 4+5* Bronze
    In the Italian Championships her record is quite unbelievable: 113 Gold!

    *short tank

    • avatar
      Fernando Miralles

      How many olimpic medals do you habe? To think one gold and one silver are not much?

  2. Halim Yussuf

    She owns the world record in the 200.

  3. Susan L. Lansbury

    Why is there such a problem with a non-US swimmer winning?

  4. David Prunell-Friend

    Federica is simply the best, the amazing Goddess of the 200, whether you like it or not.!!!!)

    • avatar

      Indeed! I quite like it too! She is unbelievable. She was 10 years older than rest of the field. I’m sorry but let’s see where ledecky is at at 29.

  5. avatar
    Bill Bell

    Congrats to La Lioness de Verona but let’s nit forget that one of the runners up had already swum two miles, two 400s and a leg on the 400 free relay plus heats and semis of the 200 free..

    I don’t care if you’re WonderWoman. THAT has to take its toll.

  6. Colm Joyce

    Well done!recall Friedrica being the first lady to break the 4 min for 400free@Rome 2009.Greatest role model for Women’s&Italian swimming!congratulations on world gold!

  7. Anson Lau

    Arthur Cheung Zing zz check this out

    • Anson Lau

      Arthur Cheung look at the data below is pretty helpful

  8. Ralf Hübner

    Congratulation – Rock the pool –

  9. Doug Senz

    The best swimmer won!

  10. Mike Sherrill

    First it was “shocking”, now “not surprising”. It never should have been shocking.

  11. Robin Walker

    Nothing in racing ever surprises me, that’s why they swim the race.

  12. avatar
    Enzo Castellan

    Congrats to Federica. She doesn’t know that his passion for tattoo poisoned her. This has lead to a decrease in its performance in recent years. Now that the peak of heavy metal is decreasing, she’s catching up in efficiency. Federica states recently to leave swimming. I think she can still do well in the future. Don’t abandon these sport. Good luck Champ.

Author: Taylor Brien

Taylor Brien is the Assistant Operations Manager and a staff writer at Swimming World. A native of Bettendorf, IA and a 2015 graduate of Illinois College, she has covered a variety of events since joining the SW team in 2015, including the NCAA Championships, World Championships, Olympic Trials, and 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Current Swimming World Issue

Trouble Viewing on Smart Phones, Tablets or iPads? Click Here