Unitedby the Olympic spirit: Santiago Grassi, Gladys Erbetta and Germán Chiaraviglio
Santiago Grassi, Gladys Erbetta and Germán Chiaraviglio carried the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games torch on its way through Santa Fe in Argentina. Each one of them represented Argentine sport in their own time at various Games: Helsinki 1952, Nanjing 2014 and Rio 2016. Without having ever imagining it, they met up with that sacred flame that had pushed them forward through their careers.
The three of them posed for a postcard that none of them will ever forget. United by the torch that keeps illuminating Argentina on every stop, Grassi, Erbetta and Chiaraviglio had an unforgettable evening in their city. The Buenos Aires 2018 Torch Tour, after the first two relays in La Plata and Paraná, reached Santa Fe, where it illuminated the thousands of people that gathered under the Olympic values of friendship, respect and excellence.
“It was a huge honour. While I was carrying the sacred fire, I had my own history running through my head, the history of the Olympic Movement and what the youths who will compete at Buenos Aires 2018 are going to experience,” said Germán Chiaraviglio, a finalist at the World Championships in 2015 in Beijing and at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 and a silver medal winner at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. He was one of the carriers of the Olympic flame and he took the responsibility of lighting up the young crowd in Santa Fe.
The 31-year-old pole vaulter was the last of a list of athletes and people from the Santa Fe cultural and community scene who carried the Youth Olympic flame. He added: “The fact that the Youth Olympic flame is travelling across the country will leave a mark about how important Olympism is for us. Its trip through Santa Fe is something unforgettable.”
Another one of the relay runners in the provincial capital of Santa Fe was Gladys “Dida” Erbetta. She is a famous athlete from Santa Fe who participated at the Olympic Games Helsinki 1952, where she competed in the 200 metres, long jump and the 4x100 metres relay. About to turn 90 on 28 September, Dida carried the torch for a few metres with visible emotion.
“I was very nervous but very happy to have been able to carry the Youth Olympic flame,” remarked Erbetta, a living legend of Argentine athletics who has her name written in golden letters in the sports history of Santa Fe. “I hope that this passing of the sacred fire helps so that kids in Argentina practise more and more sport,” added the sportswoman, who in 2013 was honoured with a very special title: a Physical Education Centre of her birth town, Santo Tomé, was named after her.
The third protagonist of this story was swimmer Santiago Grassi, who participated at the Youth Olympic Games Nanjing 2014 and won a silver medal in the 100 metres butterfly at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
“It was beautiful to cross the bridge with the torch. All my family and friends were there, which gave it a very special meaning,” said the swimmer, who had his senior Olympic debut at Rio 2016. “It was a very peculiar feeling. I saw the flame at Nanjing and Rio, but to be able to carry it in my own town made me feel the respect that it inspires in my own hands,” concluded the national record holder in the 50 and 100 metres butterfly.
Each one of them wrote their own story in the Olympic Movement. And so, as the sun hid beneath the horizon, Gladys held the Olympic fire in her hands. That fire that motivated her to push herself to the maximum. The same spirit that prevented Chiaraviglio from surrendering after suffering a bad injury and that made him come back and reach the finals at Rio 2016. That halo of light that Grassi has run after ever since he understood the meaning of becoming an Olympic athlete.
The flame, lit on 24 July in Athens, will continue its way throughout the country, where it will cover 14,000 kilometres, carrying its message about the transformative power of Olympism to build a better world.