The Italian team celebrates after beating Hungary to gold in the open water mixed relay event in Abu Dhabi ©FINA

International Swimming Federation (FINA) executive director Brent Nowicki underlined the need to try new ideas after the 4x1500 metres mixed relay made its debut here in the open waters of Yas Bay in Abu Dhabi.

A similar relay event was first introduced at the 2017 World Aquatics Championships, but this was the first time two men and two women each swam the longest pool event in an open watercourse.

Named the "President’s Relay", the event was won by an Italy team consisting of Martina De Memme, Giulia Gabbrielleschi, Domenico Acerenza and Gregorio Paltrinieri, who clocked a winning time of 1 hour 6min 49.10sec.

Hungary finished 39.90 behind Italy in 1:06:51.7 for silver, while Germany struck bronze with 1:07:29.

The United States, Britain, China, Portugal, Brazil, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Singapore also participated.

Husain Al-Musallam has stressed the importance of modernising the organisation since replacing Julio Maglione as FINA President in June.

Nowicki said the introduction of the open water mixed relay event has been inspired by Al-Musallam’s quest for innovation.

"If we sit idle, the world of aquatics sport will pass us by so we have to constantly push everything we do with new ideas, innovations and concepts," said Nowicki at the opening press conference prior to the World Swimming Championships (25m), scheduled to start tomorrow.

"Sometimes they will work and sometimes they won’t, but the message we are trying to send is that we are willing to try new ideas to keep that inspiration going.

"The world of aquatic sport has a long history but it has a bright future if we continue to care for it and the only way we can care for it is through innovation."

Eight of the teams were led off by women as Britain went ahead at the halfway stage before Italy stormed back and did enough to overcome Hungary in the battle for gold.

The open water mixed relay contest was the first event of the FINA Aquatics Festival which features short course swimming, high diving and diving competitions.

"It feels great," said Al-Musallam.

"Today, we had a fantastic start, and this will give us very good momentum for the remaining days of the competition.

"There was excitement when the change happened between the swimmers.

"We welcome any new ideas.

"Sport is changing and we need to be changing ready for the future."

Open-water competitions are due to conclude tomorrow with the finale of the FINA Marathon World Series featuring men’s and women’s individual races.