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Vezzali gives lesson in dexterity as she juggles sporting and political careers

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21 Jul 2019
Olympic News, Fencing, Italy
Valentina Vezzali has always had to be agile of mind and body ever since taking up fencing as a child, through five Olympic Games that brought six gold medals, to the political career she embarked upon in 2013 when she was elected to the Italian Parliament’s Chamber of Deputies.


Vezzali is the subject of the Olympic Channel’s fifth episode in the new season of Legends Live On, which will also feature athlete Hicham El Guerrouj, who won the 1,500/5,000m double at the Olympic Games in 2004; Uschi Disl, winner of nine biathlon medals over five Olympic Winter Games; triple swimming gold medallist Pieter van den Hoogenband; and Svetlana Khorkina, winner of seven Olympic medals.

Vezzali started fencing as a child in Jesi, in the region of Ancona, under the tutelage of Enzo Triccoli, also known as Maestro, with coach Giulio Tomassini arriving at the club in 1989 and being impressed by the strength and bravery of one so small of stature.

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Success soon followed, but tragedy was to come when her father Lauro died aged 51 in 1989, with Valentina winning her first world youth title just one week later. It was her father who Vezzali credits with steering her to the bronze medal at the Olympic Games London 2012 after she was seconds from defeat, her motivation extinguished by missing the gold-medal match.

She said: “I’m convinced that, right then, the hands of Maestro Triccoli and my father were guiding mine and allowed me to accomplish a small miracle.”

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That bronze, as well as team gold, concluded an Olympic career that started at Atlanta 1996 – where she won silver in the foil individual and team events – before she became the first athlete to claim three successive individual fencing titles starting in Sydney four years later. She retired in 2016 after failing to qualify for the Olympic Games Rio 2016, although by that time she was already juggling sporting and political careers.

She appeared on the Italian version of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ in 2009, but she was very career-focused and applied the skills she had learned during her sporting career in the police sports division – Le Fiamme d’Oro – heading up the youth branch while campaigning in parliament for women’s rights and sport and physical education.

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