The Italian track and field team has been hit by the Alex Schwazer scandal towards the end of the Olympics: the Süd-Tirolese race walker, who won a gold in the discipline’s 50 km in Beijing, has been found positive to erythropoietin, a performance enhancing drug he confessed to have sought out and bought of his own accord, without the involvement of his coaches and team. Beside being an enormous blow to the image of the Italian track and field team, the exclusion of Schwazer from the Olympics also deprived Italy of a more than likely win; the rest of the athletics team had already reached british shores with very little hope for a place on the podium, a very sad fact when considering that the lack of top athletes in track and field disciplines comes mostly down to lack of funding in such sports at youth and school level, where young talents are found and harvested.
Volleyball was another sport where we hoped to do well: we do love it, we do play it and we have always been one of the top teams in the world; the boys’ bronze medal is a good result, although I must admit , as a huge volleyball fan, I did hope for something more, especially after having spectacularly eliminated the overall favorites of the tournament, the USA. The girls’ team, on the other hand, did disappoint a little: they could have done more, many felt, and loosing to Korea has been a bit of a humiliation.
Let’s be clear, Italy has not performed badly in London: we did get a good amount of gold medals and reached a great deals of finals, some of which could have been won. The feeling is, though, that we did not succeed where it may have been easier, because we had the best athletes, just as it happened in the pool, or in the case of women’ volleyball. The secret of success is always the same, train hard and keep concentration high and maybe some of ours did not really do it. The fact is also, and it would be unfair not to admit it, that other nations quite simply have better athletes and not necessarily for a matter of genes: as for everything in this day and age, sports need money to grow and develop; they need money to create the infrastructures necessary for training or to fix up those already in place. And the sad truth is that many olympic disciplines do not pay good enough dividends for investors to be interested. The results are often seen on international level, where our athletes struggle to place successfully among the best.
In the end though, let’s enjoy and celebrate the winners, and let’s hope there will be twice as many in four years’ time: Rio de Janeiro, be ready for the Italian contingent!