Tokyo 2020: The Italian athletes to watch at the Olympics

Tokyo 2020: The Italian athletes to watch at the Olympics
Gianmarco Tamberi, known for sporting half a beard, is one of Italy's medal hopes in the high jump. Photo by Antonin THUILLIER / AFP
As Italy begins its bid for medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, here are five Italian athletes who stand to make their mark.

Following Italy’s football victory in the Euro 2020 championship, more sports professionals are flying the green-white-and-red flag in Japan, claiming nine medals in the first weekend of the Games and currently placing ninth in the table.

Italy has already enjoyed success in taekwondo, freestyle swimming, the breaststroke, fencing and women’s skeet (a type of clay shooting) since the games started on Friday.

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In the last Olympic games in Rio 2016, Italy brought home 28 medals in total – eight gold, 12 silver and eight bronze.

With one gold medal, four silver and four bronze medals under their belts so far, and another two weeks of competition to go, here are the top Italian competitors to watch.

Jessica Rossi: Shooting

Photo by PHILIPPE LOPEZ / AFP

Out of more than 370 Italian athletes – a record number to participate in the Olympic Games – Jessica Rossi is the Italian flagbearer and a former Olympic medal winner in the 2016 games.

She won a total of seven medals in the Games in Rio in 2016, four golds and three silvers, and hopes are high for this shooting talent.

Rossi started the sport young, under the guidance of her father, who was also an Italian shooting champion.

In 2009, at the age of 17, she won the Italian, European and world titles. At the London Olympics three years later, she continued her streak and set a new world record with a score of 99/100.

Her teammates have already paved the way for another Italian victory, with Diana Bacosi claiming the silver in women’s skeet. She dedicated her medal to “all Italians who have recovered from the pandemic”.

Frank Chamizo: Wrestling

Photo by BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP
 
This Italian-Cuban wrestler brought his talents to Italy in 2011 after becoming a World Cup champion at 18 years old.
 
He won the bronze medal for Italy in the 2016 Rio Games and now has his sights set on gold.
 
“Gold in Tokyo 2020 is my reason for living. So any result other than victory would take on the contours of failure,” he told the sporting newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport.
 
Even though he peaked at bronze in the last Olympics, his subsequent three European titles and a world title have now put all eyes on this champion fighter.
 
 
Federica Pellegrini: Freestyle swimming
 
Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP

 
The Venice-born swimming star, nicknamed ‘La Divina‘ (The Divine), is favourite to snatch a medal for Italy.
 
The Beijing 2008 Olympic champion is now taking part in her fifth Olympic Games. First taking to the international stage as a 16-year-old, she won an Olympic silver medal at Athens 2004.

She took gold in Beijing and is the only swimmer in history to win a medal at eight successive world championships in the same event.

For a sport that is known for its short career span due to burnout, Pellegrini’s success borders on, well, the divine.

As the only Italian swimmer to have set world records in more than one event (200m and 400m freestyle), this swimming prodigy is one to keep an eye on throughout the Tokyo Games. 

Gianmarco Tamberi: High jump

Photo by STEFANO RELLANDINI / Diamond League AG
 
He has half a beard (his name on Instagram is ‘Halfshave’) and wears different shoes, but this athlete wants to take the whole title in this year’s Olympics.
 
After an injury that prevented him from taking part in the 2016 Rio Games, Tamberi has his sights set high for Tokyo.
 
In the last Olympics, he achieved 2.40 metres before injuring his Achilles tendon in the last competition before the Games.
 
After training, Tamberi is back to regularly flying above 2.30 metres and has gained a European silver medal in the meantime.
 
Following one world title and two European titles, he’s now aiming for an Olympic victory, telling Vanity Fair: “This is the right year to try and complete the picture.”
 
Viviana Bottaro: Karate
 
Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 
This karate expert from Genoa is ready to make her mark in Tokyo. “It’s now or never,” she told Vanity Fair.
 
Bottaro has won many medals in both the world and European arenas, claiming three golds in European Championships.
 
She describes her career as “a fight against time” after breaking her fibula and tibia. But she’s undeterred.
 
“It’s time to dive in, or rather to ‘put your fist through’,” she says.
 
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games run until August 8th. Find Italy’s schedule throughout here.

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