When it appears on the giant screen of the Olympic Nautical Stadium in Rome on Saturday August 13, the main swimming pool ceases to be at the center of the interest of the thousands of spectators present. “Fede, Fede, Fede” then rise from the stands, in honor of the legend Federica Pellegrini. The 34-year-old Italian, retired since December 2021, is the godmother of these European championships. The Eternal City occupies an important place in her career: she triumphed there 13 years ago, with two gold medals (in the 400 and 200 m freestyle) and a world record at stake. The native of Mirano, near Venice, has become an icon in a country that usually reveres its footballers and Scuderia Ferrari. Wherever Pellegrini goes, crowds are created to take a selfie with the champion, drop a word or just have a smile. When the meetings are organized, like Sunday at the Foro Italico, the autograph session sometimes turns out to be excessive. The tail can stretch for tens of meters. Of course, other Italian swimmers have made history. Domenico Fioravanti (double Olympic champion in 2000 in the 100 and 200 m breaststroke), Massimiliano Rosolino (Olympic champion in 2000 in the 200 m medley) and Novella Calligaris (world champion in 1973 in the 800 m) are part of the ” Walk of Fame” and thus have their names inscribed on plaques on the ground before entering the Foro Italico. But none exploded the boundaries of the swimming pool like “Fede” did. His track record has a lot to do with it. Arrived at the age of 14 in international pools, the Italian won six world titles (eleven medals in total), two Olympic charms, including one in gold, or even seven European coronations in long pool. Today she still holds the world record in the 200 meter freestyle Swimmer Federica Pellegrini, flag bearer of the Italian team during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Rio (Brazil), on August 5, 2016. ( FRANCK FIFE / AFP) But beyond the sporting aspect, Valerio Piccioni, journalist at the Gazzetta dello Sport, highlights above all the resilience of the standard bearer of the Italian selection during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. “She has not always won in her life, as an athlete and as a woman. She is a human champion with her strengths and her weaknesses. She started very early. The public saw her grow, win and lose. The people have seen her also remain standing in spite of everything.” “Federica Pellegrini is a bit of a friend to Italian families.” Valerio Piccioni, journalist for the “Gazzetta dello Sport” at franceinfo: sport On the private side, his tumultuous love affairs with swimmers Luca Marin and Filippo Magnini thus made the headlines… On the pool side, first subscribed to the second and third places, helmed in particular by Laure Manaudou, Pellegrini managed to win his first long-course title in 2008 at the European Championships in Eindhoven. For three years, she then reigned over world swimming, including the title at the Beijing Olympics in the 200m freestyle. Less sovereign from 2012, she lost her world and Olympic titles before regaining her rank of number 1 in 2017 in the 200m freestyle (Budapest), a feat repeated in 2019 in Gwangju, her last world title. “I leave in peace after having lived so many incredible moments. It was a beautiful trip that I loved from start to finish,” she said at the time of her last Olympic final, in Tokyo, in July 2021. In fact, the one who has been a judge on the TV show “Italia’s Got Talent” since 2018 has opened the doors of swimming to the general public. Even today, if the performances of Italy are scrutinized, a glance at all the daily sports and general information of the country is enough to see that the news of the one who is nicknamed “la Divina” (“the divine”) remains closely followed. Nine months after her withdrawal from the basins, the former protege of Philippe Lucas opened a breach and must pass on the torch. There are many suitors to replace her. If the Italian star Gregorio Paltrinieri has the track record and the charisma to succeed him, the signs had only one name displayed during this Roman week: that of Benedetta Pilato. Benedetta Pilato is inspired to victory by the Italian fans! The 100m Breaststroke delivers emphatically with Pilato taking the gold with a time of 1:05.97.Watch the swimming finals live now on https://t.co/o9O77Eb2Na pic.twitter.com/8JxnVp6LYB — LEN – European Aquatics (@LENaquatics) August 13, 2022 From the height of her 17 years, her teenage face hides a strong character which is reminiscent of that of Federica Pellegrini. Not to mention an already well-stocked track record. Reigning world and European champion in the 100m breaststroke, she holds the world record in the 50m breaststroke. If the Olympic Nautical Stadium is like a cauldron ready to explode with each passage of the Italians, the young woman from Taranto (Puglia) raises the decibels to particularly high levels. However, even at the start of the “Benedetta era”, they do not forget Queen “Fede”.