At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Raimondo D’Inzeo – Olympic showjumper

First athlete to compete in eight consecutive Games


Raimondo D'Inzeo always competed in his Carabinieri uniform
Raimondo D'Inzeo always competed in
his Carabinieri uniform
Raimondo D'Inzeo, who with his older brother Piero became the first athlete to compete in eight consecutive Olympic Games, was born on this day in 1925 in Poggio Mirteto, a small town in Lazio about 45km (28 miles) northeast of Rome.

They achieved the record when they saddled up for the show jumping events in Montreal in 1976, surpassing the previous record of seven consecutive summer Games held by the Danish fencer Ivan Osiier, whose run, which began in 1908 and was interrupted twice by World Wars, had stood since 1948.

The D’Inzeo brothers, whose Olympic journey began in London in 1948 just as Osiier’s was ending, had chalked off seven Olympics in a row at Munich in 1972, when each won the last of their six medals in the team event. Raimondo had carried the Italian flag at the opening ceremony.

Their finest moment came at the 1960 Olympics in their own country, when they were roared on by a patriotic crowd at the Villa Borghese Gardens in Rome to complete a one-two in the individual event, Raimondo taking the gold medal on his horse Posillipo, Piero the silver on The Rock.

Raimondo’s other medal successes had come in Stockholm in 1956, when he won the individual silver and the team silver on Merano. He collected a team bronze on Posillipo at Tokyo in 1964 and rode Fiorello II to another team bronze in Munich.

Piero (left) and Raimondo D'Inzeo with a teammate at the Rome Olympics in 1960
Piero (left) and Raimondo D'Inzeo with a
teammate at the Rome Olympics in 1960
The brothers were 51 and 53 years old respectively when they competed in Munich but would probably have extended their record to nine consecutive Games but for the boycott of the Moscow Olympics in 1980.

As it was, their record stood until 1996, when the Austrian sailor Hubert Raudaschi completed his ninth consecutive Games. The record for the most appearances at the summer Olympics now stands at 10, which another showjumper, Canada’s Ian Millar, achieved at London 2012, although his were not consecutive.

It could be argued that Raimondo D’Inzeo was born to ride. His father, Carlo, was chief instructor in the Royal Piedmontese Dragoons, an elite mounted regiment in the Italian army, and later dean of the equestrian faculty of the Italian sports university La Farnesina in Rome.

He did not take to riding at first, finding the whole experience frightening. When he was placed on a horse at the age of 10, he was so scared of being hurt he felt unable to move. But, listening to his father talking to his brother about horses at home every evening, he began to feel left out and decided to persevere. Eventually, he felt as comfortable in the saddle as Piero.

Nonetheless, he decided he wanted a career as an engineer and persuaded his father to let him enrol at the University of Milan.  But he had already grown to love horses and after a while would spend increasingly less time attending lectures and increasingly more time at the San Siro horse racing track, even competing in races from time to time.

Raimondo d'Inzeo with wife Giuliana pictured soon after  the medal ceremony at the 1960 Olympics
Raimondo D'Inzeo with wife Giuliana pictured soon after
the medal ceremony at the 1960 Olympics
He abandoned the idea of becoming an engineer and in 1950 followed his brother into the mounted arm of the Carabinieri, Italy’s quasi-military police force.  It was at the Carabinieri stables in Rome that he first encountered Merano, who would give him his first Olympic medals. The bond between the two became so close that Merano came to recognise the sound of D’Inzeo’s car as he arrived in the yard and would put his head through the stable door in anticipation of a treat.

D’Inzeo would always compete in uniform, each year with more pips as he rose eventually to the rank of General.  The mounted arm of the Carabinieri were often engaged in ceremonial roles, although that was not always the case.

In July 1960, shortly before the Olympics, he had to endure a particularly harrowing episode when he was ordered to lead a charge on horseback to break up a demonstration in Rome against the government of prime minister Fernando Tambroni. A number of people were killed and injured during the violence.

In addition to his Olympic successes, D'Inzeo was the world individual jumping champion in both 1956 and 1960, and a silver medalist in that event in 1955 and bronze medalist in 1966. He won eight International Grand Prix events between 1956 and 1975, including the Rome Grand Prix four times. He was a founding member and former President of the International Jumping Riders Club (IJRC), which was created in June 1977.

He died in November 2013 at the age of 88, leaving a widow, Giuliana Mazzetti di Pietralata, a son and a daughter. Another daughter died in a skiing accident in childhood.  Piero passed away the following February, aged 90.

The Piazza Martiri della Libertà in Poggio Mirteto as it would have appeared while D'Inzeo was growing up
The Piazza Martiri della Libertà in Poggio Mirteto as it
would have appeared while D'Inzeo was growing up
Travel tip:

D’Inzeo’s birthplace, Poggio Mirteto, a town situated on a hill overlooking the Tiber river in the province of Rieti in northern Lazio, found itself on the map in 1849 when the unification army of Giuseppe Garibaldi stopped in the town with some 4,000 men during a strategic retreat from Rome. There is a commemorative plaque marking the house where Garibaldi’s wife, Anita, who was pregnant, spent two nights. The town’s main square was subsequently renamed Piazza Martiri della Libertà.

The showjumping competitions at the 1960 Olympics took place at the Piazza di Siena in the Villa Borghese Gardens
The showjumping competitions at the 1960 Olympics took
place at the Piazza di Siena in the Villa Borghese Gardens
Travel tip:

The individual jumping and dressage events at the Rome Olympics of 1960 took place in an arena constructed at the Piazza di Siena at the Villa Borghese Gardens, which are among the city’s largest public parks. The gardens date back to 1605, when Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V and patron of the sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini, began converting a former vineyard. Team jumping took place on the final day of the Games at the Stadio Olimpico, while the eventing contest was staged at the Centro Equestre Federale, in Pratoni del Vivaro, situated in the town of Rocca di Papa, not far from the pope’s traditional summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, 25km (16 miles) southeast of the capital.









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