Sardinia, the enchanting Italian gem celebrated globally as a top tourist hotspot, is presently the epicenter of excitement as it hosts the inaugural World Para Swimming Open Water Cup. Here, a spectacular congregation of thirty-six Para swimmers representing 13 diverse nations has converged on the pristine waters of San Teodoro, each harboring aspirations of seizing prestigious titles. This groundbreaking event showcases four multi-class races, spanning the challenging 1.5km Open Water and 3km Middle-distance competitions for both men and women.
The inaugural 2023 World Para Swimming Open Water Cup bore witness to five exceptional athletes with intellectual impairments, who made quite a splash, drawing significant attention. Pernilla Lindberg of Sweden, Marina Pettinella of Italy, Viktor Izzo of Italy, Francesco Maestoso of Italy, and Alejandro Meneses Medero of Spain brought their A-game to the grand occasion.
The championship embarked on its thrilling journey yesterday, commencing with the Men’s and Women’s 3000m open water contests.
Pernilla Lindberg, in a momentous triumph, etched her name into history by claiming the Women’s S11-S14 3000m title with a remarkable time of 38:03.00. Her dedication and prowess were evident, as she shared her training regimen, saying,
“I have been training for the open water in a lake near my home in Gothenburg, Sweden, covering 5-6km every session. It was quite a struggle with the waves, which I’m not used to, but I powered through and emerged victorious. I really hope this will be a continuation and a future event for Paralympics and Virtus has this will inspire more para swimmers to compete in open water.“
In an inspiring twist, Pernilla also earned the title of champion at the 2023 Swedish Open Water Championship this year, where the paralympic swimmer swam alongside mainstream swimmers. Pernilla attributed part of her success to the synergy of open water and pool training. She revealed,
“I believe the combination of both pool and open water training works well for me. I achieved my personal best in the 200m freestyle in Manchester 2023. My primary goal in open water is to conquer Vansbro next. I will also set my sights on the national Swedish open water championship and possibly some international competitions with mainstream swimmers in the coming year.”
Pernilla achieved significant recognition during the 2023 Virtus Global Games, securing an impressive total of four gold medals and one bronze, further solidifying her reputation.
Pettinella Marin (S14) representing Italy claimed third place in the same event with the timing of 52:44.00.
“Initially, I believed that achieving the Italian title was within my reach. However, as the race unfolded, my expectations took an unexpected turn as I found myself securing a remarkable third place in the World Cup WPS. This outcome came as a delightful surprise, especially considering the race’s daunting conditions characterized by strong winds and towering waves. The challenge presented by the tide, in addition to the fierce competition, was something I hadn’t anticipated.”
“My preparations for this feat involved rigorous training throughout the summer, which included extensive sea swims and pool sessions. During my seaside stays, I committed to two daily training sessions, covering a total distance of approximately 6 kilometers. In the afternoons, I dedicated myself to refining my technical skills in the pool.”
While this edition marks the maiden voyage of the Cup, open water races have featured in the World Para Swimming calendar in the past. The most recent of these competitions transpired over a decade ago. Sardinia’s hosting of this monumental event signifies a significant milestone in expanding participation in this exhilarating discipline.
Craig Nicholson, the Head of World Para Swimming, conveyed the organization’s unwavering commitment to the perpetual enhancement of this event. He emphasized that World Para Swimming (WPS) is determined to glean insights from the current edition to elevate the event for the forthcoming year. This visionary perspective views the event not as a solitary occurrence but as a stepping stone towards its growth, with the goal of establishing it as a recurring spectacle on the calendar, boasting increasing participation from Para swimmers year after year.
Virtus is brimming with optimism, foreseeing this event as the dawn of a new era, not just for World Para Swimming but also for Virtus itself, particularly in the realm of Open Water Swimming.
WATCH SARDINIA 2023 OPEN WATER CUP
Start lists and results can be accessed from www.natatoria.com.