Paola Saini

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full namePaola•Saini
Used namePaola•Saini
Born11 October 1945 in Orta San Giulio, Novara (ITA)
Measurements162 cm / 53 kg
AffiliationsSS Lazio, Roma (ITA)
NOC Italy


In the early-1960s Paola Saini developed her swimming skills in Roma under the guidance of the Hungarian István Hunyadfi, coach of the Italy team from 1957-64. The daughter of Mario, secretary-general of the Italian Olympic committee for many years, Paolo Saini was a diverse swimmer, and was as competent at freestyle as she was at backstroke and butterfly, particularly over 100 metres.

In 1960 Saini reached the 100 metres freestyle semi-final at the Roma Olympics, becoming the first Italian woman to do so. She also helped the 4x100 relay squad reach the final, where they finished seventh in a new national record 4:26.8. Saini was one of the favourites to win the 100 free title at the 1962 European Championships in Leipzig, but she failed, and in finishing sixth lost her best chance of winning an international gold medal. At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, she again helped the relay squad reach the final, where they finished eighth in another national record, 4:17.2.

In January 1966 Saini was devastated by the Bremen air tragedy that claimed the lives of seven Italian swimmers, the coach, and a sports commentator. The death of Olympian Sergio De Gregorio hit her hard because she was very close to him. Later that same year, Saini retired from swimming.

Throughout her career Saini set the following 19 national freestyle records: 100 metres (7), 200 metres (8) and 400 metres (4). In addition she set seven butterfly records and two in the 400 metres medley. All were set in 50-metre pools, the only size pool in which Italian records were recognised at the time. Between 1960-62 she lowered the 100 free record from 1:07.7 to 1:03.5, the biggest improvement over the distance ever registered by an Italian woman. Saini graduated in biological science, and dedicated herself to teaching in Italy and later in Spain and Turkey, before returning to Italy in the second part of the 1990s.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1960 Summer Olympics Swimming (Aquatics) ITA Paola Saini
100 metres Freestyle, Women (Olympic) =11
400 metres Freestyle, Women (Olympic) 14
4 × 100 metres Freestyle Relay, Women (Olympic) Italy 7
4 × 100 metres Medley Relay, Women (Olympic) Italy 11
1964 Summer Olympics Swimming (Aquatics) ITA Paola Saini
100 metres Freestyle, Women (Olympic) 23
400 metres Freestyle, Women (Olympic) DNS
4 × 100 metres Freestyle Relay, Women (Olympic) Italy 8