World Championships: Gregorio Paltrinieri and Italy Continue To Elevate Global Presence

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World Championships: Gregorio Paltrinieri and Italy Continue To Elevate Global Presence

Exiting last summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, the Italian men had defined themselves as major players on the international stage. Such was the impact of a meet in which the European nation collected five medals – including a pair in relay action – and consistently factored in the outcome of championship finals.

Still, for Italy to be regarded as having a long-term influence on global competition, it needed to produce a repeat showing. To avoid fluke status, the Italians had to at least equal, if not surpass, their Olympic success at the World Championships in Budapest. Oh, how the Green, White & Red got the job done – and with an exclamation point.

Over eight days at Duna Arena, the Italians captured nine medals at the World Champs. Six of those trips to the podium were made by the country’s men, who did their job in backing up what was generated in Tokyo. Actually, the effort was more impressive, with this latest haul featuring a quartet of global crowns, the last an emphatic statement that expectations for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris are Grande.

If Tokyo was about learning their way to the medals stand, Budapest was about climbing it, specifically to the top step. Individually, Thomas Ceccon (100 backstroke), Gregorio Paltrinieri (1500 freestyle) and Nicolo Martinenghi (100 breaststroke) claimed world titles, Ceccon’s gold medal earned in world-record fashion.

But the biggest effort came last, as the quartet of Ceccon, Martinenghi, Federico Burdisso and Alessandro Miressi equaled the European record en route to gold in the 400 medley relay. The Italians fended off the United States for that victory, and while Team USA was missing Caeleb Dressel, the combination of balance and power produced by Italy was something to behold.

With Ceccon leading off in another sub-52 outing on the leadoff backstroke leg and Martinenghi splitting 57.47 for the breaststroke, the Italians surged into the lead. Burdisson and Miressi more than capably closed out matters, leading Italy to a mark of 3:27.51. That performance was an astounding 1.66 seconds better than what the country delivered on the way to bronze at the Olympics, and tied the continental standard of Great Britain.

The last time the Italian men flashed this type of success was in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the likes of Domenico Fioravanti, Massi Rosolino and Emiliano Brembilla carried the banner. This go-round, Paltrinieri can be considered the cornerstone, the guy who registered the initial breakthrough, opening the door to this current success.

The 2016 Olympic champion in the 1500 freestyle, Paltrinieri has enjoyed vast success in the pool and open water. And in Budapest, while younger teammates continued their rise, the 27-year-old unleashed what can be argued as the swim of the meet. As Paltrinieri won his third world title in the 1500 freestyle, he accomplished the feat via a gutsy and defining tactical approach.

Anyone familiar with the distance ranks knows about the closing speed of Bobby Finke. If the American is within striking distance with a lap to go, he’s going to run down the leader. He did it twice at the Olympics, and again in the 800 freestyle at the World Championships. In the 1500 freestyle, Paltrinieri did not give Finke that opportunity, as he pressed the pace from the outset and was under world-record pace throughout the 30 laps. Ultimately, Paltrinieri touched the wall in 14:32.80, a European record and the second-fastest swim in history. Couple that effort with the medley relay, and Italy left the meet with a closing flurry.

Although the men headlined, Benedetta Pilato and Simona Quadarella came through for the women. Pilato won the 100 breaststroke and was the silver medalist in the 50 breast. Quadarella, meanwhile, secured bronze in the 800 freestyle.

Two years remain until the Olympics are held in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. By that time, the Italian blueprint toward global excellence may have reaped additional accolades. What is certain, with Paris on the horizon, is that Italy has earned recognition as a considerable presence.

 

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