April 27, 2016

ROME (AP) Swimming world-record holder Federica Pellegrini was selected Wednesday as Italy's flag-bearer for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics - four years after she asked not to perform the same honor at the London Games.

The Italian Olympic Committee made the announcement with 100 days until the opening ceremony in Rio on Aug. 5 - a date that coincides with Pellegrini's 28th birthday.

Pellegrini had been mentioned as a possible flag-bearer for the 2012 London Olympics but said she wouldn't be able to accept because of a competition conflict. Fencer Valentina Vezzali was chosen to carry the flag in London.

''I'm a patriotic person and I live for the national team and competing with the tricolor on my chest,'' Pellegrini said Wednesday. ''But in that case (four years ago) it was just logical. The day after I had the 400 free, one of my most important races.''

''This time I'm not entering the 400 free and I'll only have the relay on the first day,'' Pellegrini added, referring to the 4x100 free final in the evening. ''So I've got more time to recuperate, also considering that it's a race which requires less energy. The Rio ceremony will mark the first time I'll experience it inside the stadium - finally.''

Pellegrini set the world record in the 200-meter freestyle at the 2009 world championships in Rome.

She took gold in the 200 free at the 2008 Beijing Games and silver at the 2004 Athens Olympics as a 16-year-old. However, she struggled to fifth-place finishes in both the 200 and 400 free at the London Games.

Perhaps her most impressive achievement has been reaching the medal stand in the 200 free at six consecutive worlds stretching back to the 2005 edition in Montreal.

Pellegrini wrote on Instagram that the flag honor ''is the coronation of years and years of a career made up of big defeats and huge victories, moments in which I was lost and moments in which I rediscovered myself.''

In the 200 free on Aug. 8 and 9, Pellegrini is expected to challenge American standouts Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin.

Italy's most popular female athlete, Pellegrini will become the country's fifth female flagbearer at the Summer Games.

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