Thursday, Jul. 24, 2008

28. Federica Pellegrini

Age: 19

The world record holder in the 200m freestyle would set gums flapping over her athletic exploits alone. But the 19-year-old is getting extra attention as part of a poolside love triangle that has added a spicy splash of soap opera to women's swimming. Pellegrini's beau is fellow Italian swimmer Luca Marin, who had been unceremoniously dumped in 2007 by his then fiancé, French freestyle star Laure Manaudou. Scoring a bit of revenge for her heartbroken male teammate (though not yet significant other), Pellegrini broke Manaudou's world best at the 200m freestyle semifinal at the 2007 Melbourne world championship before the French swimmer came back to take the gold in the final. The two women have been talking swimsmack ever since, with the rivalry set on boil when Pellegrini and Marin officially became an item. Photographers regularly catch the couple kissing poolside, just as Manaudou and Marin used to do. But with Olympic gold on the line, both women know that once you are in the water, you swim or sink alone.