Olympics, time to take stock: is all that glitters gold?

Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti with gold around their necks.
© Sailing Energy / World Sailing

Pazza, hot, magical Italian summer of sports. Perhaps it was meant to be that this 2021 was to be the year of redemption for Italian sports, and sailing, which returned from the Tokyo Olympics with Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti’s gold medal in the Nacra 17, also contributed a bit to this outcome. Let’s also say, however, that Enoshima Bay, where the Olympic races were held, 80 km south of Tokyo, made us smile but also cry.

THE LAST BLOODY REGATTA

Our Olympic team achieved a historic result with Tita-Banti, 21 years after Alessandra Sensini’s gold, 13 from the 2008 medals, but also showed some atavistic weaknesses. The last race, the bloody medal race, still hurt us. We felt heartbroken to see Mattia Camboni sobbing after being disqualified for an OCS when the medal seemed just a few steps away. The same fate befell Silvia Zennaro, author of a very positive Olympics, but betrayed by the eagerness and tension of the medal. Things that will be worth reflecting on, because Paris 2024 is just around the corner, and improving must always be the goal. On the other hand, the performance of young Marta Maggetti was positive; fourth in her first Olympics, she showed character and head, an asset for the future.

THE MOST ANTICIPATED CREW

Eventually, after days that were hard to stomach, the tricolor flew in Japanese waters. He did it with the most anticipated crew, the one we were banking on so much because he was coming off a nearly flawless four-year term. Ruggero Tita and Caterina Banti neutralized the medal race “problem,” as they went into the final regatta already with silver mathematically around their necks (discarding as the worst result an 8, with three regattas won) and with a sizeable lead over the British crew in second place. The medal race thus became almost a formality, a race only to be calmly controlled, down to the last meter, to a gold that is worth history for Italian sailing.

DELUSION 470

Opaque instead was the Italian 470 Olympics, with Ferrari-Calabro entering the medal race after a decent week of racing, but far from the podium. They are young, they have time to grow, it was their Olympic debut, but perhaps a little more could have been expected from them. They will have new opportunities in the future if they want. Worse did the girls, Berta-Caruso, who arrived in Enoshima on the excitement of world bronze, but evaporated in the Japanese sun and even finished out of the medal race. For Elena Berta it was the second Olympic chance, for Bianca Caruso the first: the medal goal seemed obvious, and there were even dreams of a top 5, the final performance seemed far from expectations. It may be the last time we will see the 470 in this formula; in Paris, the mixed men’s/women’s 470 should be staged, barring any resounding surprises, in the hope that it will not be the appetizer for a future exclusion of one of the most glorious dinghies in sailing history.

OUR VOTE.

Ferrari-Calabrò – 470M (sixth place):

Interlocutory Olympics for the blue pair that did well during the quadrennium. They almost never managed to find the treble that could bring them closer to the podium, ending up having an Olympics that seemed subdued. VOTE: 5.5

Berta-Caruso – 470F (13th place):

Expectations were definitely higher after the world bronze in Villamoura, and entering the medal race did not seem to be a problem. They do not find the feeling with the Enoshima field, end up embroiled in the no-holds-barred struggle far from the podium. VOTE: 4

Mattia Camboni – RS:X (fifth place):

Starting very strong, Camboni dropped in the second half of the week, in the medal he paid beyond measure for the tension. OCS costs the medal after an excellent four-year period. But he remains the star of Italian windsurfing and the man on whom we can build the future. VOTE: 7

Marta Maggetti – RS:X F (fourth place):

Not trembling in Olympic debut, racing at a high level all week. He has wide room for improvement; he can become a landmark. It just needs to grow more; the direction is right. VOTE: 8

Silvia Zennaro – Laser Radial (seventh place):

An Olympics above expectations for the Laserist, who entered the medal race with medal chances but fell victim to tension that resulted in an OCS. He stated that he wants to aim for Paris 2024 to make up for it. VOTE: 7

Tita-Banti – Nacra 17 (gold medalist)

It’s strange to hear Ruggero’s voice say after the finish line “it looks like we won gold” almost detachedly. It is a picture of a crew that has made control of emotions, cool-headedness, and reasoned strategy its strong point. The overall gear worked perfectly, which was by no means a given, achieving the highest goal at the end of a four-year period that bordered on the sublime. VOTE: 10

POSITIVE BALANCE, BUT…

Overall, the blue expedition to Japanese soil achieved its medal goal, but given the premises the feeling was that more could have come. Burning most of all is Camboni’s blurred medal. Sorry for the guy who is certainly one of the best windsurfers in the world, and one of the profiles to focus on in view of Paris 2024, but it goes without saying that in the Olympic team system something can be done better. Indeed, the improvement of athletes comes from the progress of an entire federation, its leaders and coaches. Medals are often won, or lost, together.

WHERE WAS RAI?

Finally, a thought should be spent on Olympic sailing. The spectacle we saw in the water in Enoshima was probably one of the best among the sports in the entire Olympiad. Too bad Rai decided to ignore it almost entirely, connecting, barely, only close to the medals of the Azzurri, when they had medal hopes.

The rest of the Olympic program was completely ignored by public television, while it was broadcast, daily, by Discovery Plus. We find it was a questionable choice to say the least, both because of Italy’s geographic location, surrounded by the sea, and because of the above, namely the majestic spectacle that was seen in the water, as well as the many human stories of this Olympiad.

If sailing struggles to become a popular sport, even in a country like ours surrounded by coastlines, it is also perhaps somewhat due to shortsightedness on an occasion such as these. The images of the glides over the waves in Enoshima, of the athletes on trapeze or backstroke producing their maximum physical effort, with aerial images alternating with those on board, was something to crinkle the eyes. Long live Olympic sailing, the highest and undisputed expression of our sport.

Mauro Giuffrè

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