Federico Burdisso made Northwestern history when he claimed two Olympic medals in Tokyo last July.
The Italian swimmer became the first Northwestern athlete in 65 years to medal at the Olympics while enrolled at the University and the first Wildcat to medal since Matt Grevers ’09 earned two golds and a silver at the 2012 Games.
Burdisso, of Pavia, Italy, placed third in the 200-meter butterfly in Tokyo. He and his teammates also took bronze in the 400-meter medley relay.
Italy had won just 20 swimming medals in its Olympic history before Tokyo. “We’re going in the right direction,” says Burdisso, the Italian record holder for the 200-meter butterfly. “We were probably the youngest team there, and we still got six medals.”
The 20-year-old says he’s used to being one of the youngest swimmers in the pool, and going up against the world’s greats doesn’t faze him. “Every time I do an international competition, I wonder, ‘Why am I racing with the best swimmers?’ But when you’re in the water, you don’t really think about that anymore. You just give your best.”
Burdisso, a junior statistics major in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, swam for the Wildcats in 2019–20, when he set school records in the 200-meter butterfly and 200-meter freestyle in addition to claiming 18 firstplace finishes. He stayed in Italy for the 2020–21 season due to COVID-19 protocols and Olympic training. He’s hoping his Olympic performance will carry over to the Northwestern pool.
“Federico is a world-class student-athlete who has proven himself at the highest level of our sport,” says Katie Robinson, Northwestern’s director of swimming and diving. “His Olympic medals are a testament that you can find success at the top in both athletics and academics at Northwestern.”