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A day with the italian national team

Between June and June 9th took place a training camp for our national team in the legendary Scaltenigo double arena (track and road), near Venice. Under Martignon’s surveillance, most of the best Italian skaters performed a series of tests aimed to conquer a seat on the plane flying to Korea next august.
I said “most” of the best, because obviously Max Presti cannot be counted upon, since he has lost interest in this national team business for quite a bit. And rightly so! Neither Saggiorato was there: he was convoked but failed to be there, allegedly due to an illness. Other absent stars were Maria Laura Orru (perhaps something to do with her university duties) and Duggento. But those champions aside, the Italian “crème de la crème” displayed fireworks on both track and road: it’s truly impressive to witness these guys working collectively.
You may remember that last year a few of the country’s top skaters were excluded from the World Championships because of a sloppy Italian Federation’s regulation that was not suitably followed by its own designers…

This time over things have softened from both sides, as the officials tried to accommodate the scheduled concentrations so that all professional athletes could attend. In fact, this very gathering was supposed to end on June 10th, but that was in conflict with the Sursee WIC stage: as the tests and trainings were ahead of schedule, the “pros” were kindly allowed to leave in useful time to reach that swiss race.

Oi! Careful what you write! Big Boss Martignon


One can split this team in three distinct groups… Firstly, the technical staff, guided by the ever present Mr. Martignon. Since last century, the venerable coach has been conducting the “azzurri” with iron fists and velvet gloves. Well, sort of.
As I was taking his picture, he recognized me immediately. “What are you going to write this time, eh?” he asked me half-jokingly. In fact last year’s controversy brought some bitter upon his relationship with many of the athletes, and perhaps between the athletes themselves. Maybe as a result of it all, the impression is that a very thin ice wall separates the officers from the skaters.

Nevertheless, works went on flawlessly, even when Martignon was firing a million simultaneous orders and his assistant coach, Mr Ennio Mumeni (ex-racer, all-round nice guy) shouted back “Oi! It’s only the two of us doing all the work here, Sir!”, meaning he and the other assistant coach. These two were writing down times and remarks incessantly, but Martignon might already have a clear idea on who’s going to Korea, and who’s not…

Ennio works (The Boss issues orders)

The male skaters form another distinct group. Boys will be boys, and they make sure it’ll be just like that! Take a Zangarini, a Polletti and perhaps a Bontempo, add a bunch of testosterone driven youngsters, put a pinch of girls or football, mix and you have the perfect recipe for total mayhem.

Top guys

While working out, these guys are deadly serious, and perform as if they were already racing at Worlds. But right after the last lactate test, they’ll have still enough energy to pack together and do some damage around. Or go party all night. One just can’t avoid being proud of them!
Finally, the girls. One has to wonder if it’s because they don’t know each other well as the guys do, or if they are shy… or just plain boring. The fact is that they are serious in and out of the track, and seem to be not having fun at all.

Yeah, yeah... blah, blah

The works

During this session, all types of tests were performed. The endurance skaters were given all the rough distances to crunch, while the fast guys raced against the chronometers. At all times, double drug and lactate tests were carried out, not only by the federation staff but also from an independent National Olympic Committee staff.
Among the long distance guys, understandably, the pros were probably not giving 100% as they were expected to race in Sursee the next day. Nevertheless, a points race with all of them on the track is something to be witnessed. Zangarini confirmed that he’s not in tip-top form due to a nasty tendonitis that wouldn’t go away, while Polletti made his homework and prepares himself to eat dog at the end of this summer. Francolini is a rough diamond being polished.
The girls were rather conservative, with the younger ones trying harder to impress the coach. Simona Di Eugenio goes strong: she might be catching a few more medals this year around.

Dangerous mob

The sprinters were working on the backed track, observed by Mumeni and with Triberio’s lead. Veteran Patrizio knows a thing or two when it comes to short distance races, and he gets all the respect he deserves from the youngsters, both male and female. Simone Bellia and Marco Falcone are a two-men show: it’s their very first year as seniors, but no doubt one or both of them will get a medal in Korea.

Sprinter's track

Their presence is imposing, their start is blistering, and the “swoosh” they make while passing by, signals another record time. Both are seriously directing part of their effort to iceskating: we’ll let you know this winter! The ladies aren’t bad either: Erika Zanetti and Nicoletta Falcone (Marco’s sister, obviously) definitely are match to Orrú and the Colombian sprinters.

So, is Martignon happy with his 2006 team? “Certainly I am”, the old fellow says. “Last year we’ve got excellent results even without the so-called stars, if you recall…”, he adds with an eye blink and a touch of irony.
It was a great joy to see these people getting the job done, and it’s a sure bet they’ll collect a great deal of medals in Korea: all in all they make you feel good about being Italian! Mind, I am not a patriot.

M. Bresin

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