Samuel Pizzetti (16 October, 1986) is an Italian long-distance freestyle swimmer who consistently challenges for podium honours in Europe, and ranks in the top ten world-wide at the 800m and 1500m distances.
Pizzetti made his mark as a junior in 2004, taking the 1500m freestyle bronze medal at the European Junior Championships in Lisbon, before winning his first senior international medal a year later with a third-place finish in the same event at the Mediterranean Games in Almeria, Spain. In 2007, Samuel captured the 1500m freestyle bronze as a carabinieri member of the Italian team at the World Military Games in Hyderabad, India, and also earned his first four Italian titles (400m, 800m, 1500m, and 5000m freestyle) over the course of the three national championships held in spring, summer, and winter of the same year. Through the summer national championships of 2011, he has won 17 gold medals, 20 silvers, and 8 bronze medals, including a clean sweep of the 400m, 800m, 1500m, and 5000m freestyle events at the spring, 2011 meet in Riccione.
Pizzetti won his first European medal – a silver in the 800m freestyle – at the 2008 championships in Eindhoven, before making his Olympic debut in 2008 in Beijing, where he swam in the 1500m freestyle heats. He ended off the year with a 1500m freestyle bronze medal at the European Short Course Championships in Rijeka, Croatia. At the 2009 Mediterranean Games in Pescara, Italy, Pizzetti took bronze in the 400m freestyle, and a month later swam his way into the 1500m finals at his first World Championships in Rome.
2010 was a year of further progress for Samuel, as he came home from the European Championships in Budapest with two medals, both third-place finishes in the 800m and 1500m freestyle events. At the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, Pizzetti improved on his 2009 performances, coming seventh in the final of the 1500m freestyle, and narrowly missed out on qualification for the 400m and 800m freestyle finals. His only appearance in the 2011 FINA/Arena World Cup series (at the October meet in Dubai) yielded victories in both the 400m and 1500m freestyle events, along with a second-place finish in the 200m freestyle.
With top-ten 2011 rankings in both the 800m and 1500m freestyle (LC) – and top-two in the 25m pool – Samuel Pizzetti is currently focused on turning his hard work into the fruition of every swimmer’s dream: an Olympic medal in London in 2012.
Samuel Pizzetti’s Italianized German coach Arnd Ginter knows how to get a rise out of his hot-blooded charge – throw down a challenge. Pizzetti – predictably – responded … by cycling the 25km to his training session. He was exhausted when he arrived, and needed his coach to give him a lift home by car. But it was the beginning of a new regimen, a new passion, and in the warmer months the long-distance freestyle swimmer now regularly jumps on the bicycle to work on his aerobic fitness.
This cycling incident highlights how in some ways – but certainly not all – Samuel conforms to the profile of a vital young man, refusing to be daunted by a challenge. On top of that, he’s also Italian – full of life, an engaging smile … and with a love of fast cars and motorcycles. He’s a big fan of countryman Valentino Rossi, nine-time motorcycle Grand Prix World Champion, and has been inspired by his book Pensa se non ci avessi provato (Imagine if I hadn’t tried). Not surprisingly, a Ferrari is the object of his automotive dreams, but the level-headed side of his personality has prioritized “una bella casa” before such a luxury. Like most natural athletes, he’s also keen on other sports, covering the gamut from skiing to scuba diving.
But there is another side to Samuel. Given his military background – he’s a carabiniere (military policeman) – his characteristic winner’s determination, and his self-confessed stubbornness, the constant presence of Squirzolina might seem something of an anomaly. But his constant travelling companion (a fluffy little puppy-dog toy) – bought several years ago during a training stint with fellow Elite Team member Paul Biedermann in Potsdam near Berlin – has become both a mascot and a ritual. Originally intended for his girlfriend at the time, Squirzolina developed into a symbol of Samuel’s own goals and sacrifices, and now plays an important role in his pre-race preparations, with promises of returning with a medal. Whenever he’s successful, Squirzolina is the first to enjoy the feel of the medal around her neck.
Not that Samuel needs someone in his corner to give him the motivation to succeed – it’s all there already. But if Squirzolina’s unswerving and silent loyalty can nudge him onto a podium in London in 2012, one would imagine that he would be more than happy to share the accolade with her before anyone else.