«I WON MY TOUR DE FRANCE»
One hot, late summer afternoon Federico ‘Fred’ Morini bikes in on his very special ‘Bianchi’, carefully screen-printed with the itinerary of his last trip. He’s nimble, agile, and climbing the stairs as if he were up on the pedals during a mountain Grand Prix. You can tell two wheels are in his blood; two wheels that raised him up to compete with the professional Bianchi-Gerolsteiner team alongside some of the strongest competitors in the early years of this decade. Then suddenly two dreadful accidents, the first of which would compromise his career: «I was a young man at the peak of my strength, and with a major contract signed. My life changed in an instant. It was a tragedy», said Fred earnestly. But he never gave up, getting back in the saddle after long periods of hospitalization. And which he did again this summer, cycling 2,500 kilometers from Milan to Stockholm via Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark and Sweden for charity: «with great suffering but also great joy». Fred tells us about all this and more.
Let’s start with your latest venture, ”Ride Across Europe for children”. What made you do this?
«I did it for two reasons: the first was a kind of revenge for all the bad luck that had me at rock bottom a couple of times; I wanted to deal with a powerful experience, which I was already thinking about when I was in the clinic. I wanted a goal that would give me the strength to do the physical therapy, exercises, take command of myself. It was like preparing for a regular race».
And the second?
«It was the desire to do something for others, not just for me. After seeing difficult situations in hospital, such as children in need and families struggling with treatments that were also very expensive, I made up my mind to raise funds for the Meyer Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Ronald McDonald Foundation for Children (Italy), who help those who need it most».
From Milan to Stockholm; how did you feel when you got there?
«Like when I got my first national team blue jersey: huge satisfaction, almost indescribable. As a sportsman I lived the last two hours of being in the centre of Stockholm like I was winning the Tour de France, with the phone ringing with calls and messages».
You’ve had two serious injuries, but you’ve always had the strength to carry on…
«Sport is a great school for life. If you do it with passion it conveys much and teaches great values, including knowing how to suffer in silence and lift your head up during the most difficult times of your life. What happened to me was devastating in some ways but still a great life experience. I have to thank sport because it made me accept defeat and get ready for even better victories in the future».
You’ve been a professional cyclist. Who’s the strongest rider you’ve met?
«I’ve lived during difficult years for cycling which talked a lot about doping, although being part of a serious team, the German Gerolsteiner, we were very controlled. Despite that I raced with the strongest, from Pantani to Cipollini, Armstrong and Ullrich… a champion who always impressed me is Laurent Jalabert, who was very elegant both as a rider and a man».
Your venture was also documented by Sky…
«Yes, Sky has made a special about the journey which airs in late September. It’s been possible because they followed my recovery period via social media, and established friendships at the journalistic level that step by step resulted in this documentary. Sky wanted to send a message to ordinary people, to show that everyone can react positively to bad times».
You’re still working for Bianchi, but what plans have you got for the future?
«I have a good job related to marketing and communication with Bianchi, and I’m considering creating another charity event. An opportunity has also come up to work with Sky in sports broadcasting. I’ve learned that we must always create new experiences. I don’t hold back, not now, nor will I in the future».
UNTIL THE LAST DISK
Tenaciousness, talent, sacrifice and aim. Really an infallible aim. Andrea Vescovi is simply all of this together, a combination of characteristics and virtues that have made him become a champion of Double-Trap (skeet shooting with two plates at a time). Even though he is very young, not yet twenty one years old, Andrea has already won so much: A World Junior Championship in 2014 and the Universiadi in South Korea in July this year. A phenomenon in sport, but also a simple boy, who wants to get a degree «because you have to think about the future too», a fan of motorbikes, «especially motorcross» but always with that dream in mind «I want the Olympics».
Where does your passion for skeet shooting come from?
«It is something genetic that my dad passed on to me, he also shot, but then he stopped when I was born: it’s a rite of passage. Starting from a very young age I looked at the rifles that he had in his armory, and little by little I got more interested in this sport, I began to practice it and the rest came by itself..».
So, if I have understood well, you began when you were a child..
«Yes, I was ten years old. The first competitions came when I was thirteen. From the beginning I had to make sacrifices like spend my summer holidays practicing, but it never was a burden to me because the one thing I wanted to do was shoot. Then it all turned into a job, the Police contacted me and I became part of the Fiamme Oro (sport teams of the State police) when I was in my third year of high school».
Yours is often considered a minor sport…
«Unfortunately in Italy we eat and sleep only soccer, they prefer showing D leagues from Brazil instead of our competitions, maybe abroad or a World Cup. It’s disappointing and I have a hard time accepting it, because we bring a lot of recognition home with us: for example at the last univerisiadi with 40 medals, we won 12 of them! ».
What does a typical day look like?
«There is a technical part where I shoot, then there is the athletic part or the physical preparation, made up of gym and aerobics. Then we do a lot of mental training, and it is important to be strong in this area because the competitions are always decided on the last plate, so the level of concentration and calm has to be very strong ».
Studies and sport, how do you make time for both?
«I am studying Physical Education in Urbino, but for now it is hard to fit everything in, between competitions, going from one place to another and training, then being part of the Police, I spend a lot of time in Rome at the military base, so it is hard…to study (he smiles, editor’s note)».
Can you tell me about the emotion of a win?
«I’ll tell you about… the World Junior Championship from last year in Granada. How I felt after I hit the last plate, one more than the reigning American champion, was a once in a lifetime sensation, so strong, I felt the rifle going to the rhythm of my heart, I didn’t even realize, I was in a trance, I wasn’t coming from a exulting time in sport, but I had prepared for that competition to the minimum detail. I told myself: “If they call me, I will win.” And I did it! ».
What do you dream about?
«Like any athlete, to participate in the Olympics. And maybe go to the podium. To be called for the next ones is unlikely but I am trying to do my best. In Tokyo 2020 I would be 24 years old and it would be early anyway for our sport. I would like to be the exception that confirms the rule! ».
SO EXCITED FOR THIS MEDAL!
«Alarm at 8; at about 9 I would go to the sports palace and do a little training, then I would go and sit to watch the competitions of the others, it went on like this until 6 in the afternoon more or less. After there was dinner and we stayed in our room with the others»: Annalisa Calagreti tells about a typical day during the competitions in Georgia with the National team which saw her dominating at the European Olympic games of 2015.
«The day of the competition I did my warm-ups first and then the contest: I tried to stay concentrated and the staff gave me a lot of support, they have been really sportive and they gave me a really great welcome: they had even made me a banner!». In Tbilisi Annalisa Calagreti, 16 years old, has won the 8th medal of the Italian judo team at the EYOF (European Youth Olimpic Festival) and it is her 5th personal gold medal. This has been an unprecedented result: a perfect competition by the 16-year-old girl from Città di Castello affiliated with the Centro Judo Ginnastica Tifernate, four matches won with Ippon, without hesitation, without any apparent difficulties, beating the current European champion in the final.
«Winning this competition has been a great excitement for me – said Calagreti right after stepping down from the podium – I dedicate this medal to my mom, to coach Augusto Mariotti and to Alessandra, to the coaches of the national team and to all the people who have been close to me even sacrificing for me». Laura Di Toma, the coach of the national team who together with Nicola Moraci accompanied the team to Tbilisi said: «My comment about these sensational Italian athletes is the one of the EYOF: Step to the future! But I hope that this wish will not be for them alone…».
Annalisa’s noteworthy result at the 2015 European Olympic Games has been celebrated in her town, Città di Castello, in conjunction with the official re-start of judo classes of the Centro Judo: a short but intense award ceremony has been held in the building of the judo club for the gold medal girl athlete. Besides the other athletes and her friends, the president of CONI Umbria, Domenico Ignozza, the president of the JIJLKAM Umbria, Massimo Bistocchi, the president of CSEN Umbria, Fabrizio Paffarini, the president of Panathlon Valtiberina, Giuseppe Rossi, the captain of the local Carabinieri station, Fabrizio Capalti and the FIJILKAM delegate of the province of Terni, and Pietro Mellone, were also present at the ceremony. In this occasion the President of CONI has officially announced that Annalisa has been chosen as the “Sport Testimonial” in the initiative which will involve the schools of Umbria. The township of Sansepolcro (Arezzo) has invited this very young athlete to be the guest of honor during the “Gala dello sport”. Well done Annalisa!
«WHAT A WONDERFUL LIFE!»
Gianpietro arrives for the cover photo shoot and is happy… a contagious happiness that’s good to share. In his bag are numerous medals; trophies from competitions he’s won since he started gymnastics at age 9. Gianpietro is now 20 and in a few months he’s off to the Italian Championships and other international competitions, having already participated in the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles this summer. He was a member of the 101 athletes of the Italian delegation who took part from 25th July to 2nd August.
The call to artistic gymnastics, was not a chance one but the result of steady work, a long process in which the sport has played an important role in his growth and the formation of his character. «I went on my own to LA, and then my family and others came to support me in the competitions, although I was always with the team» he says. «It was an interesting experience- tiring but enjoyable. America has always fascinated me and I got a lot of satisfaction going there as an athlete and representing my country. I concentrated hard on my training for the competitions and it was exciting to hear the applause of so many people watching you».
Gianpetro lives with his parents and two brothers in Citta di Castello, and this summer his mother, (who is of Japanese origin), told us his story. «When he was born the pediatricians didn’t recognize his problem straight away. They thought he was a newborn with almond-shaped eyes and severe hypotonia; it took a long 14 days to discover he had an extra chromosome. Like so many other kids with Down’s syndrome, he’s faced two heart surgeries. When he was young he was so weak that many times we felt he wouldn’t last the night. But how wonderful life is! Our weak child has become a strong, witty and slightly vain boy! He always believed in what he did and as parents we encouraged and supported him in every kind of activity, whether at school or sports».
Gianpietro studies and took his exams this year, «with the same commitment that he does his weekly workouts, makes his bed and helps with the daily chores. He thinks that when he grows up, so he says, he’ll no longer have Down’s, will live alone, drive a car like his big brother and maybe go back to Gardaland to go on the roller coaster that they didn’t let him go on before. He’s very normal; he cries, laughs, suffers and dreams the same as we do. I tell him», his mum says, «he’ll always be a boy with Down’s syndrome with an extra chromosome, but like that he’ll always be better; that’s how the X-Men evolved!».