Swimming: Pellegrini takes record fourth successive 200 free gold

Sat May 21, 2016 2:57pm EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Italy's Federica Pellegrini put down a marker for the Rio Olympics on Saturday when she fought back to win a record fourth successive women's 200 meters freestyle gold at the European championships.

The 27-year-old's time of 1:55.93 seconds was 0.04 quicker than Dutch silver medalist Femke Heemskerk, who led at the final turn, with France's Charlotte Bonnet taking the bronze at the London Olympic pool.

Pellegrini, the 2008 Olympic champion whose world record of 1:52.98 dates from 2009 before performance-enhancing non-textile bodysuits were banned, faces a tougher battle at the Games in August.

American swimmers Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin took gold and bronze respectively at the 2015 world championships in Kazan, Russia, with Pellegrini the silver medalist.

Ledecky has already swum a 1:54.43 this year, with the U.S. trials yet to come, while Pellegrini's 2016 best is a 1:55.30 at the Italian nationals.

Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom, a triple gold medalist this week, also plans to compete in the 200 free at the Olympics and swam a championship record 1:55.30 in the opening relay leg of the 4x200 on Thursday.

But, despite talk last month of focusing on the relays, Pellegrini showed on the penultimate day of the championships that she cannot be counted out.

"The Olympics will be a race in itself but I'm pleased with the journey so far," she said.   Continued...

Swimming- European Aquatics Championships- Women's 200m freestyle final - London, Britain, 21/5/2016. Italy's Federica Pellegrini (C) celebrates after winning with silver medalist Netherlands Femke Heemskerk and bronze winner France's Charlotte Bonnet.            REUTERS/Tony O'Brien