(Maurizio Porcu) A massive woman dressing a Diabolik mask is walking towards a circle in front of nearly 80,000 people.
But she is not alone on her way: another woman, unmasked but proud, holding a shot of 4 kg, is leading her to the right place.
As soon as the feet are positioned on the correct position, the guide gives her the shot. She can do the rest without any help. It’s time to throw that heavy sphere as far as possible.
This is not a fiction movie but the description of an historic moment, when Nadia Checchini, 54 from Rome, part of the Italian coaching staff of throwers, guided Assunta Legnante, blind since 2009, to achieve one of her best result ever: a world record and a gold Olympic medal at London 2012 Games.
She told me what happened in those magic weeks, with the big satisfaction obtained for all the hard and constant work needed to prepare a high level team for an international competition.
However, there are also many stories of difficulties to be told about the world of disability and the fight to let disabled people be considered important, as everybody else is, by the society.
“I follow and train a group of six guys, with different disabilities. Every single training session is a challenge. Just think to the logistic aspect, and to the efforts we make every time to set up the track for their necessities. Often you feel alone on your side, and that’s frustrating.”
But in Italy at the moment what is missing to help these athletes to practice, it’s not only money and people’s support. The facilities for them are poor and obsolete.
“I keep in my mind the images of London. All the tracks and fields were modern and professional. I admit that I was so envious for that, because with structures like those, it could be much easier to assist our guys in developing their skills and performances.”
Nadia Checchini has always loved athletics since she started to throw very young.
Then the adventure in the world of sport for the disabled people began in 2000, with the entrance in the coaching staff of the national team in 2005.
After the participation in seven international events, including European and World Championships, the Paralympics Games in London of the last year.
“It was like a dream that comes true, so exciting.”
One of the most touching moments, she told me, it was the opening ceremony.
“At 19:30 we were ready and aligned, our standard-bearer was the veteran archer Oscar De Pellegrin. We were approaching the stadium on foot. Along the way there were people applauding and greeting us and you could see the Olympic Stadium, the emotion was high.”
“At the entrance of the tunnel I had a lump in my throat, you could hear the roar for the other Nations, we were all excited, eyes were bright and entering we got the applause of 80,000 people, this time were all for us, and it was wonderful.”
We tried to describe, to those who cannot see, the show, beautiful, absolutely on topic.”
After that, many medals, records and good placements followed at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford.
“I could talk about Oxana Corso, Martina Caironi or Alvise De Vidi and many others.”
The story that sees Assunta Legnante and Nadia Checchini as protagonists serves just as example of all those efforts.
Assunta Legnante lost the sight due to glaucoma in 2009, after she competed in the Beijing Olympics as able-bodied. Nonetheless, she decided to start a new career as a paralympic athlete.
“I’ve worked as second-coach together with Andrea Meneghin, head coach of throwers since 2006.”
“For a long time in our sector we have missed great results. During the warm-up, Assunta’s throws were great: we knew that something was close to happen.”
The contest starts. Assunta is the seventh one to throw; Nadia positions her on the circle, get back and hold the breath.
The shot flies and lands far away: 16.74m, it is world record, amazing.
She said: “The award ceremony is the most beautiful thing that can happen to people like me, who is in love with athletics, hard to describe the emotion, hearing them sing the hymn was a great victory.”
In addition, the media coverage of the last Paralympics was impressive.
“That’s fundamental for us, but more than that was the interest of the public. Entering the stadium, the glance was always breathtaking: it was full even at 10 in the morning! The media should focus more on the sport for disabled people, not only occasionally every four year.”
Just in the next months an intense series of national meetings will culminate in the world championship, this year in Lyon. But as already announced by the national federation, only few of the athletes who participated to the Paralympics in London will be able to go to France.
“There is not enough money for everybody. You need the fees for the participation, for athletes and coaches. At the moment we cannot afford those for everybody that actually would have good chances of getting a medal. That’s absolutely absurd.”
A person like Nadia gives the sense of what means fighting for the right to have a normal life for everybody around you.
“The most important thing it’s to let know to the world that these guys exist, independently by medals or records. For them, the commitment is double, if not triple.”
“I am an extra, though. The real protagonists are all these guys, because as athletes and individuals they have won the toughest challenges of life.”
And now, the flag with the “three agitos”, symbol of the Paralympics sport (mind, body and spirit) is already waiting on the other side of Atlantic.
“We’ll never give up – Nadia assured me – See you in Rio in 2016!”