It was at the age of seven, at the Scherma club in Jesi in the province of Le Marche, that Giovanna took up fencing. Encouraged by her first coach, Ezio Triccoli, the young Italian quickly developed a taste for the sport, and specialised in the foil.
In 1986, aged just 16, she took part in the World Championships for 15-17 year olds, and won the silver medal. With eight medals, Giovanna Trillini is the most successful female fencer in the history of the Games, ahead of Hungary’s Ildiko Rejto-Ujlaki and her team mate Valentina Vezzali. This is in addition to her nine world championship titles, again in her favourite discipline: the foil.
Double gold at her first Games
In 1992 in Barcelona, she took part in her first Olympic Games. In the individual and team foil events, she displayed great precision and incredible speed. In the individual competition, she reached the final where she faced China’s Huifeng Wang, and produced an exemplary display. After losing the first bout, she came back to win the next two and take the gold medal. In the team competition, after defeating Poland, Korea, Hungary and Romania, Giovanna and her four team-mates (Diana Bianchedi, Margherita Zalaffi, Francesca Bortolozzi Borella and Dorina Vaccaroni) won the gold, beating Germany by nine bouts to six. Giovanna Trillini thus finished her first Games with two Olympic titles. She was just 22.
Bronze individual for a golden team
Four years later, she competed in the same events at the Games of the XXVI Olympiad in Atlanta. Even though the Italian team numbers were smaller, with three rather than five women’s foil competitors, the result was the same. In a hard-fought final against Romania, Giovanna Trillini, Francesca Bortolozzi Borella and Valentina Vezzali won the gold medal by 45 to 33. In the individual foil, Giovanna narrowly lost in the semi-final to Romania’s Laura Carlescu Badea, the future gold medallist. But she managed to win the bronze against France’s Laurence Modaine, 15 to 9.
Defending her medals
The Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000 were a carbon copy of the previous edition: bronze in the individual, and gold in the team events. In the match to decide third place in the individual event, Giovanna beat the Atlanta champion Laura Carlescu Badea 15 to 9, ensuring her place on the podium. At the 2004 Games in Athens, only the individual event was on the programme. The Italian was beaten 15-11 in the final by her compatriot, Valentina Vezzali, so took the silver.
An eighth Olympic medal
The Beijing Games were her fifth. In the individual foil event, Giovanna won her first three duels, before competing against Korea’s Hyunhee Nam in the semi-final. The Korean won by 15 hits to 10. For third place, Giovana Trillini faced Margherita Granbassi, her partner in the national team. Granbassi won the match and the bronze medal.
In the team event, Italy appeared to be the strongest line-up in the participants’ table. The team was made up of the reigning Olympic champion, the bronze medallist, and the number-four in the individual tournament. In the semi-final, the Italians met the Russians. It was a match of rare intensity, with numerous yellow cards for both teams. After the 10 assaults, the final word went to the Russians, who won by 22 to 21. Giovanna Trillini and her teammates left Beijing with the bronze medal, after a 32-23 victory over the Hungarians in the third-place match.