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Italy hails its quiet swimming heroes

Fioravanti
Fioravanti shows off one of his gold medals  

ROME (CNN) -- In Rome, on the front of a famous Mussolini's building, the Palazzo della Civiltà, there is a famous quotation from the fascist leader.

"Italians: people of saints, poets, heroes and navigators."

From now on, we should add "swimmers" too as Italy pleasantly rocks on Sydney's new wave.

After 104 years of Olympic history with no gold medals in swimming, Italy won two thanks to Domenico Fioravanti (100 and 200 metres breaststroke).

There was also one silver for Massimiliano Rosolino (400 metres crawl) and two bronze, one for Davide Rummolo (200 metres breaststroke) and the other for Rosolino again (200 metres crawl).

No-one in Italy, not even the most optimistic supporter, would have ever hoped for such result.

This Italian prodigy was born quietly. Gold medallist Fioravanti was originally sent to Sydney as a reserve for Massimiliano Rosolino and Emiliano Brembilla.

'A clean team'

But after coming out from the shade, Fioravanti wrote a page in the history of the Olympic Games.

He is the first man to ever win both 100 and 200 metre breaststroke competitions in the same Olympics.

And with bronze winner Davide Rummolo in the 200 metres race, two Italians stepped on to the winners podium: That had never happened before.

The most reasonable explanation for such a remarkable event was probably the one given by Italian coach Alberto Castagnetti: "The wonderful thing about it is that ours is a clean team.

"Of course I don't mean we are the only one to be clean, but we are firmly convinced that, when wanted, results can be achieved without external helps."

Rosolino has no doubts about it: "Spaghetti is my only doping. Believe me it really works!"

Italians are a people of ancient and rooted seafaring traditions and swimming is definitely a part of their soul.

Therefore, there should be nothing strange about all these victories. The thing is that for a long time, years actually, His Majesty the Football has been dominating the Italian sports scene as far as passion, interests and money are concerned.

As a result of this, it is no surprise that those practising other sports such as swimming are considered lonely heroes willing to sacrifice all their life for the only sake of glory.

That is why after Sydney's fireworks and celebrations, swimming will go back to its small and poor neighbourhood.

If Italian swimming is going so well, it is only because so far it had never had so many talented swimmers at the same time.

And there is more to come. In the final of the 200 metres medley Massimiliano Rosolino will be out there once again. He has the second best time among the finalists after American Tom Dolan, who won the gold for 400 metres medley.

Rosolino, whose mother is Australian, is from Naples. He has the pride, the age and the face of someone who is not afraid of anybody: "I have the second best time only because I made a mistake in the semi final competition. I have won one silver and one bronze so far," he said.

"There is only one medal missing .. the one made of a different metal … The time has come."



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