Tokyo 2020: The Italian athletes to watch at the Olympics

As Italy begins its bid for medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, here are five Italian athletes who stand to make their mark.

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

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.

READ ALSO: Why do Italian athletes wear blue?

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


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

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

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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PHOTOS: Italy’s most memorable medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

The Tokyo Olympics were Italy's best Games yet, with Italian athletes taking home more medals than ever before. Here are the highlights.

PHOTOS: Italy’s most memorable medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs and Gianmarco Tamberi celebrate after winning golds in the 100m sprint and high jump. Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP

With ten golds, ten silvers and 20 bronzes, the Azzurri representing Italy in Tokyo were tenth on the medal table overall and top in Italian sporting history.

Previously the most medals Italy had ever won at a single Olympics was 36, which the country hadn’t equalled since the Rome Games in 1960.

READ ALSO: ‘Do Italy just win everything now?’: Celebrations after Italian athletes take Olympic gold

As well as a ceremony at the presidential palace in September, Italy’s Olympic champions will be welcomed back with prize money from the Italian National Olympic Committee: gold medalists are awarded €180,000 each, while silver medallists get €90,000 and bronze medallists get €60,000.

And then there’s the glory: after an exceptionally successful summer of Italian sport and music, Italy’s Olympic team dubbed their athletes “stupor mundi” – Latin for ‘the wonder of the world’. 

Italy’s gold medals at the 2020 Olympics

  • Men’s high jump: Gianmarco Tamberi

Italian high jumper Gianmarco Tamberi couldn’t have been happier to share the gold with his fellow competitor Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar, in what was hailed as one of the most touching moments of the Games. 

  • Men’s 100m: Lamont Marcell Jacobs

Relatively unknown long jumper-turned-sprinter Lamont Marcell Jacobs was in the form of his life when he outran the favourites and hurtled to first place in the biggest race in men’s athletics. He’s the first Italian ever to qualify for the Olympic final of the event, let alone win it.

Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP
  • Men’s 4 x 100m relay 

Lorenzo Patta, Lamont Marcell Jacobs, Eseosa Desalu and Filippo Tortu pulled off an astonishing victory by the smallest of margins, with Tortu flinging himself over the finish line to snatch gold from the favourites, Great Britain, by just a hundredth of a second. It was another historic first for Italy: the country has never before won the event, and the last time an Italian team got onto the podium was at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin (silver). 

Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP
  • Men’s 20km race walk: Massimo Stano
  • Women’s 20km race walk: Antonella Palmisano

Antonella Palmisano cemented Italy’s domination of the walking competition when she followed up her teammate Massimo Stano’s gold with her own victory a day later. She actually performed slightly faster at the Rio Olympics in 2016, but that time only earned her fourth last time round.

Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP
  • Track cycling, men’s team pursuit

Italy’s four-man team set a new track cycling world record by completing 16 laps (4km) in just 3:42.032. While Great Britain had long dominated the event and Denmark were reigning World Champions, no Italian team had won it since the Rome Olympics of 1960.

Photo by Greg Baker / AFP
  • Karate, men’s kumite -75kg: Luigi Busa
  • Rowing, lightweight women’s double sculls 
Valentina Rodini (L) and Federica Cesarini (R) celebrate their win in the lightweight women’s double sculls final. Photo by Luis ACOSTA / AFP
  • Sailing, mixed multihull – Nacra 17 foiling
  • Taekwondo, Men’s -58kg: Vito Dell’Aquila

Vito Dell’Aquila won Italy its first gold of the Games, at the age of just 20. It was his first Olympics but at this rate, it won’t be his last.

Photo by Javier SORIANO / AFP

Italy’s silver medals at the 2020 Olympics

  • Artistic gymnastics, women’s floor exercise: Vanessa Ferrari

Arguably Italy’s greatest competing gymnast, 30-year-old Vanessa Ferrari proved the value of experience when she became the first Italian to win an individual Olympic medal for women’s artistic gymnastics.

Photo by Loic VENANCE / AFP
  • Men’s individual archery: Mauro Nespoli
  • Men’s kayak single 200m: Manfredi Rizza
  • Fencing, men’s foil individual: Daniele Garrozo
  • Fencing, men’s sabre individual: Luigi Samele
  • Fencing, men’s sabre team

Fencing has long been one of Italy’s strongest sports, and these Games were no exception. Altogether Italian fencers took three silvers and two bronzes in both team and individual events. 

Italy’s Luca Curatoli (L) competes against South Korea’s Gu Bongil in the men’s sabre team gold medal bout. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
  • Women’s skeet shooting: Diana Bacosi
  • Swimming, men’s 4 x 100m freestyle relay
  • Swimming, men’s 800m freestyle: Gregorio Paltrinieri 
  • Weightlifting, women’s 64kg: Giorgia Bordignon
    Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

    Italy’s bronze medals at the 2020 Olympics

    • Women’s individual archery: Lucilla Boari
    • Women’s featherweight boxing: Irma Testa

    Irma “Butterfly” Testa made history as the first Italian woman to win an Olympic medal for boxing, a victory she dedicated to all of Italy’s female boxers.

    Photo by Luis ROBAYO / POOL / AFP
    • Women’s cycling road race: Elisa Longo Borghini 
    • Track cycling, men’s omnium: Elia Viviani 
    • Men’s 10km marathon swimming: Gregorio Paltrinieri 

    Gregorio Paltrinieri is one of the best long-distance swimmers there is, holding the men’s world record for the 1500m freestyle. He comes home from Tokyo with two medals: silver in the 800m freestyle, and bronze in the gruelling 10km swim.

    Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP
    • Swimming, men’s 100m breaststroke: Nicolo Martinenghi
    • Swimming, men’s 100m butterfly: Federico Burdisso
    • Swimming, men’s 4 x 100m medley relay
    • Swimming, women’s 800m freestyle: Simona Quadarella 
    • Judo, women’s -52kg: Odette Giuffrida
    Photo by Franck FIFE / AFP
    • Judo, women’s -63kg: Maria Centracchio
    • Fencing, women’s épée team
    • Fencing, women’s foil team 
    • Karate, women’s kata: Viviana Bottaro

    Accomplished karateka Viviana Bottaro won Italy its first Olympic medal in karate, which made its debut at the Tokyo Games. 

    Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP
    • Rowing, lightweight men’s double sculls
    • Rowing, men’s four
    • Rhythmic gymnastics, group all-around

    Nicknamed le Farfalle (‘the Butterflies’), Italy’s five-woman rhythmic gymnastic team provided one of Italy’s last medal-winning performances on the final day of the Games, and one of the most spectacular.

    Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP
    • Weightlifting, men’s 67kg: Mirko Zanni 
    • Weightlifting, men’s 81kg: Antonino Pizzolato
    • Wrestling, men’s freestyle 97kg: Abraham de Jesus Conyedo Ruano