Interview: Italian foil great Vezzali dreaming of 2012 Olympics

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TURIN, March 12 (Xinhua) -- Valentina Vezzali, quintuple foil Olympic gold medalist, put her unprecedented success down to a winning blend of luck, destiny and personal commitment.

When she learned she has been hailed as "a living legend" and a "myth", the 37-year-old from the Umbrian town of Jesi of Italy simply smiled and swore she never thought she could have achieved so much.

"It all started one day when I was 6 years-old and I accompanied my sister to the gym. There I fell for fencing, my adventure and my childhood dream started. I was lucky to meet an excellent trainer (Ezio Triccoli) and take a sport that allowed me to best express myself," she told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.

Everything came naturally. "One step at a time, my career unfolded before my eyes. First I won the under-17, then the under-20 foil championship and so on. Training brought me a long distance away, but I couldn' t even imagine what the Olympics were like before I got there! Somehow it came by as a surprise. When I was a young girl I loved watching Japanese cartoons and I dreamt of becoming one like the Mila volleyball heroine, but of foil," she said.

Dubbed as "fencing queen" after she won the third consecutive individual Olympic gold at the Beijing Games, Vezzali is already an icon not only in Italy, but also for the world fencing lovers.

In reaching such an awe-inspiring height, she boasted vocation, talent, determination, hard-working and also a lot of luck.

"I must admit that I was lucky because I had the chance to grow up in Jesi, the historical hometown of the fencing tradition, where the sport is deep-rooted. I was born and grew up all my life near a gym where I could constantly train myself," she says.

"In Jesi there are important sport structures which help maintaining alive the ancient Italian fencing school and where champions are produced, it' s inevitable that more champions are born because tradition feeds on tradition. The passion and dedication of many young fencers are constantly growing and the continuity in achieving great results is linked to daily, hard training and preparation," she explained.

Vezzali has been working hard to become a champion, to forge a tough character. She always wants to achieve more.

"I always tend to look ahead, to want more. Right now, for example, I' m focusing on defending my Olympic title in the upcoming 2012 Games. Once again like at the Beijing Olympics, I want to be the protagonist," she said.

Vezzali currently trains five to six hours a day in her hometown and twice a week she drives for 200 kilometers to the city of Terni to train with her personal coach.

In May the Olympic qualifications will start and she is preparing to bring out her very best.

On top of training on a daily basis, she, married to a soccer player, runs a household, constantly looks after their young boy. And she is also a policewoman.

Vezzali in fact is affiliated with the Italian police' s special sport corps called the "Golden Flames" and since 1999, when she entered the group, she has been known as the "policewoman with the foil" .

"Working for the police has allowed me to constantly practice the sport I love and at the same time to keep up the name of Italy' s authorities and sports on the international stage. The Golden Flames corps allow athletes to perform at an agonistic level, conveying the message of respecting legality and law because sport is also about this. Therefore I am very proud of being a fencer having achieved that much," she said.

A salaried policewoman, Vezzali also gets financial support from the Italian fencing federation and several high-level sponsors.

For Italy she' s a precious asset, very much admired as well by the public. She is now regularly taking part in television spots with her son advertising safe food for children, and she also participated in a popular dancing show where she was forced to learn ballet and compete with other squads.

Her life is all about fair play, competition and overcoming continuous tests, which she considers as the winning ingredients and mind-set in tackling life' s obstacles.

"I badly needed the dancing adventure to relax after the Beijing Olympics, it helped me to distract after so much concentration. It was indeed a positive break" , she recalled.

"We women are used to facing life with determination thanks to our ability to balance our professional career and family. We are much better than men in handling different tasks simultaneously," she said.

About the author


Fencer for 25 years, Chairman of NYAC Fencing Team; Head Coach Men's and Women's Fencing at Columbia University; 2012 USA Modern Pentathlon Olympic Fencing Coach.

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