Italy sprint to maiden 4x1500m World title ahead of Hungary

Gregorio Paltrinieri, Barbara Pozzobon, Ginevra Taddeucci, Domenico Acerenza – credit World Aquatics

By Nick Hope  
Aquatics correspondent in Fukuoka

Italy claimed their first gold of the 2023 World Aquatics Championship after holding off a charging Hungarian side to secure the 4x1500m title on day seven of Fukuoka 2023.

Ahead of the race defending champions Germany were the favourites, having claimed golds in both the 10km and 5km events through Florian Wellbrock and Leonie Beck.

However, with Wellbrock rested ahead of the commencement of the pool programme on Sunday they lacked a little of their usual strength in depth and other nations were keen to take advantage.

The 4x1500m race begins – credit: World Aquatics

Spain were the early leaders though with Italy and Hungary down in eighth and 12th respectively after the opening 1500m leg.

They were still outside the top five heading into the second half of the race, but from there they each picked up the momentum.

In the closing stages veteran Olympic and World champion Gregorio Paltrinieri was able to outsprint World junior champion David Betlehem to secure gold for Italy, with Hungary second.

Italy’s team of Barbara Pozzobon, Ginevra Taddeucci, Domenico Acerenza and Paltrinieri finished in a combined time of one hour 10 minutes and 31.2 seconds

“We spent hours yesterday but also during the season trying to fix this relay,” said Paltrinieri.

“We won many times at the Europeans, but we’ve never won the relay at the Worlds so that was our goal to try to win the gold and it was (a) big (moment).”

Credit: World Aquatics

The Hungarian side, consisting of Bettina Fabian, Anna Olasz, Kristof Rasovszky and Betlehem record a time of 1:10:35.3, 4.1 seconds behind.

“I went with Gregorio (Paltrinieri) and he went to a really good place and I was able to be on his feet but I couldn’t go next to him and beat him in the last meters,” said Betlehem.

“That’s why I’m a little bit sad, but I’m very happy with the silver medal.”

Around a minute later Australia edged Germany by just 0.2 seconds in the battle for bronze.

There was some consolation for the Germany who were awarded the open water ‘team of the tournament’ trophy after the competition of the sport’s programme at Fukuoka 2023.

Credit: World Aquatics