LONDON • Gregorio Paltrinieri has trained his sights on Olympic gold and Sun Yang, after becoming the second-fastest 1,500m freestyle swimmer in history at the European Championships at the London Aquatics Centre on Wednesday.
The Italian had set a new European record last year en route to the world title, after Olympic and world champion Sun had withdrawn from the final at the World Championships in Russia.
On Wednesday, Paltrinieri swam alone for all but the first 100m as he finished in 14min 34.04sec. Only Sun has gone faster than the Italian.
Paltrinieri sliced 5.89sec off the European mark he set in Russia to move to within 3.02sec of Sun's world record (14:31.02), set four years ago at the same venue.
Sun has not set a time in the race this year, with Mack Horton of Australia the top-ranked man before Paltrinieri's masterclass.
While the Olympic title is the goal, the Italian admits to some anticipation about a battle with Sun.
"I am going to Rio ready to challenge," he said. "I don't know what Sun Yang is doing. I can't speak for Sun Yang but I want to race him."
It was his third successive title in the event and he led home an Italian one-two with Gabriele Detti winning silver (14:48.75) ahead of Mykhaylo Romanchuk of Ukraine (14:50.33).