Italy of wonders. The 4X1500 mixed cross-country relay (two men and two women) wins gold at the Fukuoka championships with Barbara Pozzobon, Ginevra Taddeucci, Domenico Acerenza, Gregorio Paltrinieri. It is the first title in the specialty for the Italian national team at a World Cup. The blue quartet finished in 1h10'31"2 ahead of Hungary (1h10'35"2) who fought David Bethlem in the last leg, but then gave in to Paltrinieri who seems to have found his form again after his silver medal in the 5km, following his disappointing debut in the 10km (5th and without a pass for Paris 2024). Bronze defined by the photo finish: it is taken by Australia (1h11'26"7), to the detriment of Germany which as defending champion finishes fourth. The Germans have given up on Florian Wellbrock, already two golds in the 10 km and 5 km, who wants to concentrate on the pool races at the start on Sunday, and for this he has been replaced by Rob Muffels. And he pays for this too.
Among the waves that appear for the first time at Momochi Seaside Park these days, Barbara Pozzobon, from Veneto, 29, who has been training with Paltrinieri and Acerenza in Ostia since January 2021, starts in the first fraction. She is a marathon runner, she ran the 25 km which was canceled from the World Cup. She had to reinvent herself as a sprinter. She was 5th in the 5km and this was her first relay: “I couldn't ask for more, it's the first time I've swum the relay and I immediately won the gold medal. For me, coming from the longest races, it was truly an exhilarating world championship. I became aware. Starting strong right away with the males wasn't easy, but I managed to follow in their wake and make a good change. The rest was done by the team of which it is an honor to be a part”.
Barbie as the group calls it, takes over from Ginevra Taddeucci with 8th position while Spain is in the lead. The 26-year-old Florentine, who was in the bronze World relay in Budapest 2022 (with Giulia Gabbrielleschi, Acerenza and Paltrinieri) and silver in the 10 km at last year's European Championships in Rome, gains two positions before the change with Acerenza. She says: “Exciting, we are world champions. We have left nothing to chance. Perfect changes. Total tuning. Race performed as designed. There is so much satisfaction. Am I the only one who doesn't live with them in Ostia? It's not a problem, we've known each other for a long time, as soon as we meet again it's very easy to find harmony again".
It's up to Mimmo, from Basilicata, 28 years old, 4th in the 10km and bronze in the 5km in Fukuoka, puts in the break. As had been studied at the table by his coach, Fabrizio Antonelli, who he chose before the 2021 Tokyo Olympics leaving Stefano Morini. “We have overturned waves and opponents. We had a great time. Pozzobon and Taddeucci managed the fractions, making me leave without a sensational gap. I managed the currents well and satisfied Paltrinieri who wanted to start from the front. He closed in a big way. After the change I was almost sure of success, but as long as you don't touch anything can happen and the sea today was difficult. It was important to evaluate the currents well, avoid obstacles, adapt. Greg's fraction was infinite. The nice thing is to sing the anthem of Mameli all together. As a team, with the team. There is unity and Italy is strong”.
Paltrinieri has the honor and the burden of playing number 10 and scoring goals. After the disappointment in the 10 km (5th) without a pass for Paris 2020, Greg has grown, in physical condition (he was sick before the World Cup and has been so several times throughout the year), he has grown. The silver in the 5km was proof of this, and this gold, even more: “We are very happy, it is the first time that we have won gold at the world championships. We have won everything and everyone over the years, but we missed this medal and we cared very much. In the race we made a strategy studied down to the smallest detail. We studied the opponents, the routes, the rhythms, the times. We've all been good. The girls to maintain position and follow the right routes and trails. Then Acerenza gave me the change I wanted, in the lead, not behind Hungary or Germany. He succeeded and I held on. The world championship didn't start in the right way, without medals and an Olympic pass, but the condition has grown over time. We know how strong we are. We must always try to express it, despite the difficulties, even if objectively the basic project is going very well. This medal is proof of that. We have dreamed of winning gold at the World Cup as a team many times and we have finally succeeded”. And the World Championship has just begun for Greg: from next week he moves to the pool for the 800m and 1500m freestyle. “I will have time to dispose of and recover”. Greg is back.