Lorenzo Zazzeri (born in Florence, in 1994) competed at the Tokyo Olympic Games, winning silver in the 4×100 men’s freestyle swimming relay. He speaks with The Florentine about the Games, competing in general and his art.
Thanks for talking with us, Lorenzo. Where are you at the moment?
I’m currently in Naples, taking part in the ISL (International Swimming League), which brings together the top 300 swimmers in the world. There are ten teams, mine being the Toronto Titans. It’s very stimulating, being in an international team, speaking English; also, I’m now racing alongside swimmers who are usually my opponents. One of my teammates, for example, is Blake Pieroni, who was part of the American team that beat us to the gold at the Olympics!
It’s a busy calendar for you. The Olympics only finished a couple of weeks ago. How many events do you normally have in a year?
This year is unusual, partly because many events were postponed from last year. In November we have the European Short Course Championships, which are taking place in Kazan, Russia. Then we have the Italian championships at the start of December, in Riccione. The week after that, there’s the 25-metre FINA World Championships in Abu Dhabi, followed by the 50-metre event in Fukuoka, Japan, at the start of 2022. In August we’re in Rome for the European Aquatics Championships.
Going back to the Olympics. Are you still on Cloud Nine or have you come down to earth?
Somewhere in the middle. Immediately afterwards, I went on holiday, tried to get away for a bit and not think about it too much. Only now that the season’s up and running again has it started to sink in. I’ve received so many messages from people saying that we brought them a lot of joy. I’m so happy that we could do Italy proud.
Your Olympic squad consisted of Alessandro Miressi, Thomas Ceccon, you and Manuel Frigo. How do you settle on the order of swimmers in a relay? Do you have different roles?
Absolutely. The different lengths present different challenges. Normally, it’s the coach who decides the order, on the basis of our characteristics as swimmers. For example, maybe one guy is particularly strong on the return length: he would be a natural choice as the fourth swimmer, as someone who can close out the race quickly. Generally, the best swimmer takes the first length, because it’s crucial that the team has a good start. The second and third swimmers have more of a structural, consolidatory job. Of course, it depends on the tactics of the particular team.
Do you feel more pressure in relays or in individual events?
Good question. There’s pressure in both, but in very different ways. I get much more emotional about the relay. Yes, the risks are multiplied, but not everything depends on you: you know you can rely on your teammates. When you win, you share in the joy; and there’s also more of a sense that you’re flying the flag for your country. The individual races bring a different pressure. You’re there alone: just you, the water and your competitors. I close my eyes more; I use more visualization techniques.
What about before a race?
It was an unusual situation at the recent Olympics. Normally, swimming finals take place in the afternoon, but this time, for broadcasting reasons, they were in the morning. This meant that we had to treat breakfast almost as a part of the race. As soon as I woke up, I was competing. I arrived at the pool, warmed up with some stretches; then I spent half an hour in the water, doing a few sprints, getting used to the temperature.
Besides being a swimmer, you’re also an artist [Lorenzo’s work can be seen on his Instagram page Zazzart].
It’s my other great passion, and I try to pursue it when I can. As with swimming, I started when I was very young: I would pause Disney films and copy from them. I want to do a series of paintings united by water, the pool, what it means to be a swimmer, the effects of light on the water at different times of the day. We’ll see what comes of it. I’ve got the first sketches down.
Finally, would you tell me the story about your bag?
I’d returned to Florence, after a 12-hour flight and two hours on the train, so I was pretty tired. I went to the pool in Bellariva, where the Florentine team train. I was both elated and exhausted, not really thinking properly, and I left my bag in the car. An hour later, I came back out: the car had been broken into, the bag was gone. My documents, iPad, phone, etc. Luckily, I’d remembered to bring the medals into the pool to show my teammates. Thanks to the Carabinieri and to Florence’s canoeists, I got it back—it was found under Ponte da Verrazzano. Of course, it was all soaked, and there wasn’t much in it, but there was still a bit of Olympic memorabilia.