Young 2009 heroes, Sjöström and Hosszú are racing for the all-time glory…

Sarah Sjostrom (left) Katinka Hosszu (right)
Sarah Sjostrom (left) Katinka Hosszu (right) – LEN / Simeone Castrovillari

13 years ago the Foro Italico saw two young greats make breakthroughs in this very same pool.

Sweden’s Sarah Sjöström burst to the scene as a 15 years-old prodigy, clinching the World title in the 100m butterfly and Katinka Hosszú of Hungary also won her first major gold in the 400m individual medley.

She has gone on to secure 96 medals across major FINA and LEN events (Olympics, Worlds, Europeans, long- and short-course included) and is seeking to hit three figures in Rome.

Their goals are different, though. Sjöström made a successful return after a serious elbow injury she had suffered in February 2021. After missing the 2021 Europeans in Budapest, she managed to claim a silver medal in the 50m free at the Olympics in Tokyo, then enjoyed a great week at the short-course Worlds in Abu-Dhabi.

Sarah Sjostrom
Sarah Sjostrom won World 50m freestyle and 50m butterfly gold in Budapest – LEN / Simeone Castrovillari

This year, at the FINA Worlds in Budapest a few weeks ago, Sjöström rediscovered her super speed, winning the 50m free and 50m fly, as well as a silver medal in the 100m free.

Sjöström left the Budapest Worlds in June as the female swimmer with the most individual World Championship medals of all-time – with 19 podium places (10 gold). That leaves her only one shy of the all-time record count, still held by Michael Phelps (20).

And the Swede doesn’t seem to stop any time soon and here in Rome she can renew her rivalry with Hosszu for the No 1. spot on the all-time medal ranks at the long-course European Championships.

Hosszu retook the lead in Budapest (while Sjostrom was away), now she is 24-23 up, with 15 golds, 6 silvers and 3 bronzes. Though a triple seems a bit unlikely this time, still, she has a theoretical chance to catch up Franziska van Almsick (GER) who amassed the most European titles so far (18). Sjostrom stands with 14 golds, all from individual events, also a record.

Quadarella seeks triple-triple – Pilato faces duel with Meilutyte

Local hero Simona Quadarella will certainly be the top favourite in the long-distance freestyle events. The Italian won the 400, 800 and 1500m free in Glasgow 2018 as well as in Budapest 2021 – it was the first time in history that a swimmer achieved these back-to-back triples.

Pilato vs Meilutyte is likely to be one of the biggest rivalries during Roma 2022 – LEN / Simeone Castrovillari

Fellow Italian Benedetta Pilato will face a tough duel with ‘comeback Queen’ Ruta Meilutyte who had a stunning win at the London 2012 Olympics as a 15 years old, before an injury ahead of the Rio Games derailed her career and she later retired from the sport.

However, now back, she impressed by winning the 50m breaststroke gold at the FINA World Championships, ahead of Pilato, while the 17-year-old Italian claimed the 100m title.

Last May in Budapest Pilato won the sprint event in a new world record time of 29.30, so their head-to-head battle is likely to be one of the greatest show-downs of Roma 2022.


Analia Pigree, of France, entered the international scene at the last short course Europeans and recently won her first medal (bronze 50m backstroke) at World Championships, with Poland’s Katarzyna Wasick (50m free silver) another to perform well at that event.

Analia Pigree won two European short course medals at Kaza 2021 – LEN / Simeone Castrovillari

Switzerland’s Maria Ugolkova and Lisa Mamie, are both likely to be multi-media contenders, as is Israel’s Anastasia Gorbenko who hopes to defend her title in the 200m individual medley.

Also keep an year out for Greece’s first-ever female European champion Anna Ntountounaki and France’s Marie Wattel in the 100m butterfly who shared Euro gold after a dead heat at the event in Budapest last year.