Francesco Bettella brings World Series to LignanoWorld champion heads organising committee while also preparing to compete in the event 21 May 2018
“It is a great challenge as this time the event is not going to be ‘just’ the National Championships but one of the six World Series. I do not deny that I feel an incredible responsibility on my shoulders.”
The Italian city of Lignano Sabbiadoro will make its debut as part of the World Para Swimming World Series in great fashion hosting some of the best Para swimmers on the planet from 24-27 May.
Heading the organisation of the Italian World Series is a 29-year-old who knows a thing or two about Para swimming. Two-time Paralympic medallist and double world champion Francesco Bettella is the president of the Local Organising Committee. But being so involved out of the pool will not prevent him from competing in it too.
“It is a great challenge as this time the event is not going to be ‘just’ the National Championships but one of the six World Series. I do not deny that I feel an incredible responsibility on my shoulders,” the class S1 swimmer said. “My staff is very competent. The organisation has worked day after day, studying every detail and taking one step at a time, setting in motion a great structure.”
Still, the Italian athlete – also a mechanical engineer – admits that sometimes it is hard to believe he is in charge of the most important international Para swimming event in his country.
“I had never imagined doing it in Lignano Sabbiadoro or in Italy. Sometimes when I took part in an international competition, I said to myself: ‘I would like to do this one day, who knows.’ I had this thought after I competed in the World Series in Berlin.
“In the autumn last year I had a meeting with the Italian Para Swimming Federation (FINP) to discuss the possibility to organise the event. Then came the invitation for me to be the president of the LOC. I took a few days to think of it and decided to accept [the challenge].”
What Bettella and his team organising the event could not foresee was that right in the first year the Lignano Sabbiadoro World Series would attract so many Paralympic and world champions from across the globe.
“There will be 216 swimmers representing 31 nations from five continents. Among the international stars we will see are Brazil’s multi-Paralympic champion Daniel Dias and USA’s Rebecca Meyers, undisputed Paralympic champion in the 400m freestyle S13, 100m butterfly S13 and 200m medley SM13.”
Italy will also come strong following the third place in the medal standings in the 2017 World Para Swimming Championships in Mexico City with 38 medals. Bettella was responsible for two of them, gold in the 50m backstroke and 100m backstroke S1.
Federico Morlacchi, who won seven medals in Mexico, Carlotta Gilli and Monica Boggioni, who won six medals each in Mexico, are some of the other Italian stars competing in front of the home crowd.
“In recent years we have had great international results in the pools, just think of the 31 medals at Funchal [European Championships] in 2016, the 13 medals at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the 37 at last year’s European Para Youth Games in Genoa and those from Mexico City, to be precise 38.
“This is a great occasion for us all and for the Para swimming movement in Italy to show how much we have developed in recent years. In addition [to the World Series] there will also be 221 athletes from 39 clubs competing in the Italian Club Championships.”
Following Lignano Sabbiadoro’s maiden World Series, the final two events of the 2018 season take place in Great Britain (Sheffield, 31 May-3 June) and Germany (Berlin, 7-10 June).
Live results for the Lignano Sabbiadoro World Series will be available here.