Nicolò Martinenghi almost didn’t become a swimmer.
It only came about because the Italian made a pact with a childhood friend to each learn the sport loved by the other so they could spend more time together.
Nicolò played basketball fan but once he took to the water, that was it.
Now he has two Olympic bronze medals and is the fourth-fastest man in 100m breaststroke history.
He told malpensa24.it: “I was struck by the meritocratic aspect: if I played badly in a match maybe the team could win anyway and everyone was happy, or I could do it very well and then we would lose anyway. In swimming, on the other hand, it is only my responsibility if I go well or badly.”
The 22-year-old returned to Azzate, in the Varese region of northern Italy, where he received the keys to his hometown.
While there tributes were paid to his first coach Franco De Franco who died days after his breaststroke bronze in Tokyo.
Nicolò said: “It wasn’t me whose chose the breaststroke, it was the breaststroke that chose me.
“And it was Franco De Franco who set my talent for this stroke into motion.”
Nicolò became only the second Italian man to win an Olympic breaststroke medal.
He recalled: “It was an indescribable emotion. I worked six years for 58 seconds: having been there one hundred percent, for just one moment, when it was needed. And I experienced the joy of knowing that at that moment all the sacrifices had been repaid.”