Barcelona, July 30 - Federica Pellegrini qualified for the finals of the 200 metres freestyle at the world swimming championships in Barcelona on Tuesday in a surprise defence of her title. The 24-year-old placed first with a time of 1:55.78. Pellegrini is coming to the end of a sort of 12-month sabbatical she embarked on after flopping at the 2012 London Olympics and it was not planned for her to defend the 200 and 400 metres freestyle world titles she won in 2009 and 2011. She was only meant to compete in the 200m backstroke and some relay events before returning to her full training regime and her individual freestyle races after the world championships. But she was among the contenders in the heats of the 200m freestyle on Tuesday and qualified for the semis, which will take place later on Tuesday, with the third-best time, 1:56.79. "I'm surprised by the time because the sensation I had in the water was not great," Pellegrini told State broadcaster Rai. "I tried to minimise my effort (ahead of the semis), but the race was without pressure for me. I didn't prepare for it. I'm here to have fun".