Magnini back to edge out emotional Bernard
Filippo Magnini stole the headlines at the European championships on Friday, the Italian 100m freestyle world champion in 2005 and 2007 claiming his first title in five years.
The unexpected 30-year-old winner claimed victory in a time of 48.77sec with France’s Olympic champion Alain Bernard relegated to second at 48.95s.
Magnini had only posted the fifth quickest time in the heats and the second in the semi-finals on Thursday, but made a giant leap forward to outpoint Bernard.
His career has been in freefall since the Beijing Olympics in 2008 when he was knocked out in the semi-finals.
At the 2010 European championships he came in third and at the 2011 world championships he was knocked out in the semi-finals.
And up to this return to form only a place on the Italian 4x100m freestyle relay appeared acessible for Magnini at the London Olympics.
He said: “I want to dedicate this win to all those over the past three years who beleived in me, and to all those who spoke bad of me. I was getting bored not experiencing the taste of victory that made my life more beautiful.” Setting off quickly Bernard turned at the midway point in front but Magnini clawed back his advantage to prevail, with Romanian Norbert Trandafir grabbing bronze.
Magnini added: “I gave everything in this final. When I saw I was reeling in Bernard I said to myself ’I hope there’s no one else in front of him’.” For Bernard this was his eighth and last 100m freestyle medal as he is only planning to compete in the 4x100m freestyle in London.
“What emotion! I was almost crying,” he said with a broad smile and slightly moist eyes.
He said: “The last metres were very tough but there was a lovely medal waiting at the finish, I’m really happy. You have to believe, you have to dare...” Favourite for the race was Amaury Leveaux who had posted the quickest times in the heats and semi-finals but paid the price for competing in his tenth race in five days and only came in fourth.