Beachgoer who fell off inflatable unicorn in Sardinia rescued by Italian Olympic swimmer

Two-time world swimming champion Filippo Magnini raced into the waters towards Mr Benedetto, and managed to keep him afloat until the lifeguards arrived with a rescue raft.
Two-time world swimming champion Filippo Magnini raced into the waters towards Mr Benedetto, and managed to keep him afloat until the lifeguards arrived with a rescue raft.PHOTO: FILIPPO MAGNINI / INSTAGRAM

A tourist who nearly drowned in the waters off the Italian island of Sardinia on Sunday (July 7) was fortunately rescued by a fellow beachgoer, who turned out to be an Olympic swimming champion.

Mr Andrea Benedetto, 45, and his husband were floating on inflatable unicorn near the Cala Sinzais beach when he fell into the ocean.

He was unable to move his limbs in the cold water due to a medical condition, reported the BBC on Tuesday.

BBC Persian journalist Saroush Pakzad, who happened to be at the beach, said that a strong wind blew the inflatable unicorn away, and left Mr Benedetto's husband struggling to keep his partner's head above water.

By a stroke of luck, two-time world swimming champion Filippo Magnini was sunbathing at the beach with his girlfriend when he was alerted by shouts for help.

The 37-year-old Italian raced into the water towards Mr Benedetto, and managed to keep him afloat until lifeguards arrived with a rescue raft, BBC said.

Mr Magnini won the bronze medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics as part of his country's 4x200m freestyle relay team.

He also won the 100m freestyle at the 2005 and 2007 world championships, but has since retired from the sport.

"The bather was in a lot of trouble: he was quite frightened, he was really stuck and had swallowed some seawater," he told Italian news outlet Corriere dello Sport, according to the BBC.

"When I reached him he wasn't even able to speak, and it wasn't easy to lift him on to the raft, so we laid him on an airbed that some other bathers had nearby," he said.

However, he was quick to dismiss the fact that he was a hero.

"I just did what I had to," he added.

News of the dramatic incident made headlines across several Italian newspapers and websites in the following days.

Mr Benedetto was taken to the hospital, and when he regained consciousness a few hours later, he was surprised to learn that Mr Magnini was the man who saved his life.

He added that he hopes to be able to thank his rescuer personally.