Magnini, a former world champion, was swimming with his girlfriend when he noticed a tourist struggling to keep his head above water on the beach in Sardinia, an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.
The man — later identified as Andrea Benedetto by the BBC, was floating on an inflatable unicorn with his husband until the strong winds propelled him into the water, according to a close friend.
Benedetto’s friends saw him drowning and began to signal the lifeguards, but the 37-year-old retired champion reached the drowning man much faster.
Benedetto’s new spouse was trying to keep his head above water until the lifeguards arrived, but his husband struggles from a medical condition that limits his limbs.
“The swimmer was in trouble,” Magnini told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “At a certain point, he got scared, couldn’t move and swallowed a bit of water. When I reached him, he couldn’t even speak.”
Magnini, 37, who won the 100-meter freestyle at the 2005 and 2007 world medals and a bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, kept Bendetto afloat until the lifeguards arrived to help. Bendetto was immediately transported to the hospital.
“I did what I felt I should do,” Magnini said. “The important thing is the swimmer is safe.”
Fox News’ Kira Grant and the Associated Press contributed to this report.