skip to content

Indestructible Guglielmetti earns golden reward

10 Aug 1932
Los Angeles 1932

Many of the European delegations making the long journey across the Atlantic for the 1932 Olympics devised inventive ways to keep their team members fit during the gruelling voy-age.

Faced with a 17-day trip, the last five by rail, the Italian contingent ordered their gymnasts to run a lap around their train at each stop in order to prevent their muscles and joints seiz-ing up.

For one Italian, just being alive to compete in Los Angeles was a blessing. As a child, Savino Guglielmetti had cheated death not once but twice, first escaping unharmed after being violently run over by a taxi, and then surviving falling from a four-floor building by clinging on to electrical cables hanging outside.

It is tempting to imagine that the accident inspired Guglielmetti to take up acrobatics, but his first sporting passion was in fact the pole vault. After competing in Milan with the Artig-ianelli Club aged just eight, he began practising gymnastics and at 15 joined the Pro Patria Milan athletics club, where he was coached by Mario Corrias.

In 1930, he became a member of the Italian national team and over the next couple of years sustained a high enough level of performance to be named in the Italian Olympic squad, which also included Mario Lertora, a gold medallist at the 1924 Paris Games, and Romeo Neri, a silver medallist four years earlier in Amsterdam.

The Italian gymnasts did their country proud, winning a total of four golds, putting them behind only the USA in the overall medal table. For Guglielmetti, it was a dream Olympic debut as he landed gold in both the pommel horse event and the all-around team event.

Two years later Guglielmetti won the Italian all-around championship and went on to repeat the feat four more times before the end of the decade.

By the time of the 1936 Games in Berlin, he was widely considered Italy’s best gymnast, but finished out of the medal places in both the team event and the individual all-around event.

After the eight-year Olympic hiatus caused by World War II, Guglielmetti competed at one more edition of the Games, in London in 1948, by which point he was 46, but was only able to achieve 5th place in the men’s team event.

In the years following his retirement, Guglielmetti remained involved in the sport with both the Italian gymnastics federation and his alma mater, Pro Patria. In 1998, he was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame and in 2000 was awarded the Olympic Order in Silver.

In December 2005, barely a month before his death at the age of 94, he donated the uni-form he wore in 1932 to the Olympic Museum in Lausanne.

back to top Fr