Federica Pellegrini became Italy’s first female Olympic swimming champion on Wednesday with a record-breaking performance achieved by wearing two swim suits.
The 20-year-old Italian carved 0.63sec off her old mark in setting a world record of one minute 54.82 seconds in the 200 metres freestyle final for her country’s first gold medal in the pool at the Water Cube.
Slovenian Sara Isakovic won silver in 1:54.97 with China’s Pang Jiaying taking the bronze in 1:55.05.
But Pellegrini then revealed that she took the precaution of wearing a training suit under her racing swimsuit to prevent potential embarrassment.
“I put the training suit under the other suit because the swimsuit can sometimes break very easily,” she said.
“In order to avoid problems and show myself naked, I put on another swimsuit, a normal training one not a Speedo LZR Racer.”
Pellegrini went one better than her silver medal behind Romania’s Camelia Potec in the 200m Olympic final in Athens.
The Italian sprinter owns both the 200m and 400m freestyle world records.
“The final was all about form and I showed that today,” said Pellegrini.
“When I won I was saying to myself ‘finally, finally’, because I have been waiting to win this 200m freestyle for the last four years. So I have been avenged.”
Italy’s previous best performance by a woman in the pool was by Novella Calligaris with a silver medal behind Australian Shane Gould in the 400m freestyle at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Rice completes medley double
Australia’s Stephanie Rice completed the Olympic medley double with victory in the 200 metres final in world record time. Rice, 20, followed up her world record triumph in the 400m medley on Sunday when she came from behind to pip Zimbabwean Kirsty Coventry to lower her world record by 0.47secs to two minutes 08.45 seconds.
Rice became the first Australian to win swimming’s 200m-400m medley double at the Olympics.