Tired of serving as a hare to the best long-distance runners of recent years, and of giving in to them in the final sprint meters, Gregorio Paltrinieri carried out yesterday in Budapest a feat as epic as it was intelligent in the final of 1,500, during the final day of the World Swimming Championships.
Paltrinieri speculated the day before with the place that would offer him the best chance of victory in the final, so that in the qualifying test he calculated the time and position so as not to occupy one of the central lanes in the decisive race. He entered the final with the second worst record, assigned to lane one, to one side of the pool wall, away from the theoretical favorites and generally benefiting from Paltrinieri's strategy, used to setting infernal rhythms, but without a final punch when can't get unstuck.
On that edge of the pool, away from his usual pursuers, Paltrinieri had an open bar to swim without marking, in a rush, win or sink. He won and got the second best mark of all time. Paltrinieri is Italian, a member of a team that has been among the best in the world of swimming for decades. In the same geographical environment as Italy and France, with responses as good or better than these countries in other aspects of the sport, Spain confirmed for the umpteenth time that its swimming is a calamity.
Excuses will come. There is always an alibi to justify successive disasters. Thirty years ago, at the Barcelona Games, Spain won its first gold medal in swimming. Martín López Zubero, the son of Spaniards, living in Florida since he was a child, won the 100 meter backstroke. His victory deserved full rag covers. Martín López Zubero was the first of the swimmers to whose protection he went to neutralize criticism of the very serious deficiencies of Spanish swimming.
Martin Lopez Zubero was followed by Nina Jivaneskaia, Spanish nationalized Russian swimmer, and later Mireia Belmonte, who has an impressive track record that has never matched the true level of our swimming. On the contrary, Mireia Belmonte has functioned as the nuclear shield of a leadership incapable of placing Spain on a level homologous with that of its neighboring countries.
Normality in Spain has been the residual role that it has had to interpret, unbecoming of a country that in many aspects has the best possible conditions for swimming: excellent climate, magnificent centers of high preparation and enthusiasm for the sport, as has been proven in other aquatic specialties, such as water polo or synchronized swimming.
Both in one field and in the other, Spain is one of the main powers in the world. In fact, his successes have also been used for decades to distract from the perennial failure of swimming. If there was no Mireia Belmonte at hand, she served one or both water polo teams, and at one time the privileged places reached by the women of the synchronized team.
Now a new alibi is anticipated: the improvised designation of Budapest as the venue for the World Cups, after the resignation of Fukuoka, derived from the pandemic. They have been almost clandestine World Cups for the fans. Spanish Television broadcast at full blast the recent adapted swimming World Cups held in Madeira, but ignored the Budapest World Cup, the place that has given birth to three swimming phenomena, the Romanian David Popovici, the French Léon Marchand and the Canadian Summer McIntosh; the stage where Katie Ledecky has once again shown her splendid teaching and the event where the Italian Ceccon has broken the world record in the 100m backstroke and the Hungarian Kristof Milak, the 200m butterfly. The World Cup, in short, where Spain has not placed a single finalist and has once again assumed its unfortunate situation.