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Just a round of applause. A huge one, even without the podium. That fades away by 26 hundredths of a second after an amazing race and incredible times: it should have been the crowning moment for a champion who has been able to stop time. 12 years and three Olympics have gone by starting with silver in Athens 2004, but Federica, our nation's favourite, is still there. Among the top sprinters. Tonight Pellegrini came fourth in the 200 m freestyle final at Rio 2016 in a time of 1:55:18. The Italian flag bearer bowed down to the American Ledecky, gold in 1.53.73, Sjostrom (1:54:08) and McKeon (1.54.92) but not with pride. She wanted a place on the podium because she is a perfectionist and she deserved it for what she has been able to give to Italian sport throughout her magnificent career. It was within touching distance, but it just slipped away.
The 2008 Beijing Olympic champion remains the youngest individual Italian medal winner, as well as holding the World and European 200 m freestyle record. Federica, as a result of winning silver at the World Championships in Kazan in 2015, also become the first swimmer in history to step onto the podium at six consecutive World Championships. At World level she has collected 4 golds, 4 silvers and one bronze, while adding 6 golds, one silver and four bronzes at the Europeans to her trophy cabinet. Finally, in the short-course, her successes include World Championship silver and 3 bronzes, and 7 golds, 2 silvers and 5 bronzes at the Europeans. Federica has won over 100 Italian championships, has been world record holder 11 times, still holds the 200 m freestyle world record, set in Rome on 29 July 2009 (1:52.98) and the European 400 m freestyle record (3:59.15).
A truly outstanding list of successes, a deserved tribute to a champion who has written history, and conquered the world, from the top. A champion who obtained the copyright for the 200 m freestyle, making it her very own trademark. She floated over the transience and difficulties, cutting through the water with elegant power. Sinuous strokes, unmistakable style, an innate ability to be at one with water. Natural talent, the most dazzling demonstration of her pure class. With class, style and sacrifice, she has been able to develop her talent, working on it, with humility, swimming towards infinity. Infinity is a synonym for glory. Even without tonight's high note, as part of her games as flag bearer. Thank you all the same, Federica.

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