Rome world championships: 400m freestyle women, Final
Federica Pellegrini (ITA) and a suit became the first pair under 4mins in the 400m freestyle: the time on the clock is 3:59.15. From 2010, the athlete will remain, the suit will be gone. Thank goodness. The same goes for Joanne Jackson and Rebecca Adlington, Olympic champion, second and third tonight in best times of 4:00.60 and 4:00.79.
"I knew I would finish first because I didn't see anyone else around me, but I didn't know about the record until I turned around and looked at the board," said Pellegrini. She heard the roar of the Roman crowd "from the first to the last metre."
After the mistakes of Beijing 2008, when she raced at the pace of the Brits and Katie Hoff (USA) and paid the price, Pellegrini said: "This medal is worth a lot. It's more emotional than Beijing because it was tougher. This race was tougher mentally than physically. Only me and (coach Alberto) Castagnetti know how hard we worked this year. But sometimes mental fatigue can betray you. You can train all year but then if you're not 100 percent in you're head, you don't win. I had some problems this year but my character helped me win, even if I didn't believe it until the last five metres."
Pellegrini has suffered panic attacks on previous occasions and was at one time diagnosed as having suffered a nervous collapse. A few hours before the final in Rome tonight she doubted whether she would be able to step up and fight. "At one point, I thought there was no hope. This afternoon I was in bed and I thought I had a fever, but I didn't want to measure it," Pellegrini said. "In warm-up, the cold water helped me cool down."
The Italian was roared home ahead of the first two British women to share a world-championship podium but Adlington and Jackson took heart. "That’ll be us in London . It's definitely something I'm going to remember for the rest of my life ... but it was her night,” said the double Olympic champion with a glance up at the packed stands.
“It seemed like the whole of Italy was out there tonight cheering on Federica and it pushed us all to the finish,” Jackson said. “It helps when there's two of us in a race like that but Federica was in a class of her own tonight. I'm so proud of what Becky and I achieved tonight. For me it’s a place better than Beijing and I'm really happy with that.” She added that she too would have loved to break 4 minutes. She may not get a chance for a while yet, given what awaits all in 2010. But the wait for the next sub-4-minute swim will be worth it.
Where the Rome race fits into "swimming" history:
A little context: after Melbourne 2007, Janet Evans (USA) still made her 2nd best ever with the 4th best performance ever, on 4:03.85, while Australian Tracey Wickham's 1978 world-championship record of 4:06.28 had finally gone and made her 13th best and her time the 26th best performance (multiple entries). Now Evans's time is 31st best performance and Wickham's has gone from 26th to 111th.
Rome 2009 final
Melbourne 2007 final
The new all-time top 10:
How things looked coming out of Melbourne 2007: