Improved Federica Pellegrini closes Marseille event with second place-finish

The Beijing 2008 Olympic champion lost to Charlotte Bonnet in the 200m freestyle, while Pernille Blume stormed to the 50m free title.

By Andrew Binner
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

Italian swimmer Federica Pellegrini was pipped into second place on the final night of the FFN Golden Tour event 'Camille Muffat' in Marseille, France.

Victory in the 200m freestyle went to home favourite Charlotte Bonnet in 1.56.77, but it was an encouraging performance none-the-less from the Beijing 2008 Olympic champion to finish second.

Pellegrini, who also serves as an ambassador for the Milano Cortina 2026 Olympics, only came fourth in the 100m freestyle on Saturday evening (20 March) with a time of 53.84, more than half a second behind winner Marie Wattel from France (53.32).

The 32-year-old qualified for the final of the 200m free with the third-best time of 2.00.20, and greatly improved that mark to 1.57.64 in the final.

Bronze went to Slovenia's Janja Segel in 2.00.18.

After the Italian Olympic Trials were cancelled in 2020 due to the coronavirus, Pellegrini was reportedly offered a spot on her nation's Tokyo Olympic team by virtue of being the reigning world champion.

But she wanted to earn her place in the pool, and make the 1.56.90 qualifying time set my the Italian federation.

While her performance today was less than a second over that mark, she will likely keep improving over the coming months. The Tokyo Olympics in 2021 would be her fifth Games, 17 years after her debut at Athens 2004 where she took home silver as a 16-year-old.

Pellegrini won gold in the 200m freestyle at the Beijing 2008 Games as well the world championship title in the same event in 2009, 2011, 2017 and 2019.

She is the only swimmer in history to win eight consecutive world championships medals in the same event.

Elsewhere on finals night in Marseille, a strong performance from reigning 50m freestyle Olympic champion Pernille Blume showed that she may have rediscovered her best form.

After failing to medal at the 2019 world champs, the Dane powered to the 50m free title in 24.28, the second-quickest time in the year and just 0.05 slower than her winning time at Rio 2016.

Dutch relay Olympic gold medallist Femke Heemskerk sealed second in 24.72 while local favourite Melanie Hénique took third in 24.73.

Hénique's time means she becomes the fifth French swimmer to book her ticket for the Tokyo Olympics alongside Florent Manaudou (50m free), Yohann Ndoye Brouard (100m and 200m backstroke), Marie Wattel (100 m) and David Aubry thanks to his third place finish at the worlds in 2019 over 800m.