Rome

Swimming: Pellegrini drops Lucas, set to focus on 200m

Italian star says still friends with Frenchman

Swimming: Pellegrini drops Lucas, set to focus on 200m

Rome, September 16 - Italy's former Olympic and world swimming world champion Federica Pellegrini announced Tuesday that she is parting company with French coach Philippe Lucas. The 26-year-old also said that should would focus on the 200 metres freestyle from now on, at the expense of her other main event, the 400m freestyle. Pellegrini was the first woman to break the four-minute barrier when she won the 400m freestyle at the 2009 world championship in Rome with a time of 3:59.15. But on several occasions she has also experienced panic attacks while taking part in the 400m and she prefers the 200m, the event she won the gold medal in at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Furthermore, while her 400m freestyle record was beaten last month by America's Katie Ledecky, her 2009 world record in the 200m still stands. "I met Philippe in Narbonne and we talked about all the technical issues," Pellegrini said in a statement on Tuesday. "After carefully considering the options, we agreed not to continue together. "I'm sorry that we came to this conclusion, because I adore Philippe as a person and as a coach. "But the best thing is that we are both sure that our friendship will not end with this change, which will see me focus on preparing principally for the 200 freestyle". Italy's Matteo Giunta will take over as Pellegrini's coach ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Pellegrini has changed coach many times since the death of her longstanding mentor Alberto Castagnetti in 2009. Lucas, the former coach of Pellegrini's ex-rival Laure Manaudou, prepared her for the 2011 world championships in Shanghai, where she retained both the 200m and 400m freestyle titles she won in Rome in 2009 with world record times. But they separated after Shanghai as Pellegrini no longer wanted to live in France to work with Lucas and the coach refused to move to the swimmer's base in Verona. She returned to Lucas during the semi-sabbatical she took after doing no better than fifth in the 200m and 400m freestyle finals at the London Olympics in 2012. She returned to form at the 2013 world championships, winning a surprise silver medal in the 200m freestyle, despite not having originally planned to compete in the event. She won gold in the individual 200m freestyle and the 4x200m relay at the European championships in Berlin last month, but came a disappointing fourth in the final of the 400m. Pellegrini is a favourite with sponsors thanks to her pin-up looks. She also is frequently in Italian gossip magazines, which love to detail the latest in her romance with fellow swimmer Filippo Magnini, the 100m freestyle world champion in 2005 and 2007. Earlier this year, she said she intends to retire after Rio Olympics to pursue a quiet life as a "wife and mother".

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