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.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Vanessa Ferrari - gymnast

First Italian woman to win a World Championship gold


Vanessa Ferrari is Italy's most successful female gymnast
Vanessa Ferrari is Italy's most
successful female gymnast
The gymnast Vanessa Ferrari, who in 2006 became the first Italian female competitor to win a gold medal at the World Championships of artistic gymnastics, was born on November 10, 1990, in the town of Orzinuovi in Lombardy.

Ferrari won the all-around gold - consisting of uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise - at the World Championships in Aarhus in Denmark when she was only 15 years old. It remains the only artistic gymnastics world title to be won by an Italian woman.

Earlier in 2006, Ferrari had picked up her first gold medal of the European Championships at Volos in Greece as Italy won the all-around team event.

Naturally small in stature, Ferrari was inspired to take up gymnastics by watching the sport on television as a child, when the sport was dominated by Russian and Romanian athletes.

With the help of her Bulgarian-born mother, Galya, who made many sacrifices to help her daughter fulfil her ambitions, Ferrari joined the Brixia gym in the city of Brescia, a 30km (19 miles) drive from the family home.

Brixia was co-founded by Enrico Casella, a former rugby player who was technical director of the Italian women’s gymnastics team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Casella recognised Ferrari’s potential and took it upon himself to become her personal coach.

Vanessa Ferrari became a World champion when she was only 15 years old
Vanessa Ferrari became a World champion
when she was only 15 years old
Ferrari’s first major success came at the 2004 European junior championships, when as a 13-year-old she won the silver medal. She dominated the Mediterranean Games and European Junior Olympic festival the following year. She was all-around champion at both events, as well as winning four more golds at the former.

After her success in the European and World senior events in 2006, she won two gold medals at the 2007 European championships in Amsterdam, finishing first in both the all-around event and the floor exercises.

She could finish only ninth in the all-round when the European championships were held on home ground in Milan in 2009 but collected another medal by finishing runner-up to Great Britain’s Beth Tweddle in the floor exercises.

In Brussels in 2012 she picked up her sixth medal overall with bronze in the team event before bouncing back to win her fourth gold on the floor in Sofia in 2014.

Although she is the most successful of all female Italian gymnasts, an Olympic medal has eluded Ferrari so far, although she has twice narrowly missed out.

At the London Games of 2012 she finished level on points with close rival Aliya Mustafina in the floor exercises only for the Russian to be given the bronze medal on the tie-break system, despite Ferrari finishing with a better mark for difficulty than her rival.

Vanessa Ferrari was injured at the   2017 World Championships
Vanessa Ferrari was injured at the
 2017 World Championships
And at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Ferrari again had to settle for fourth place. This time bronze medallist Amy Tinkler of Great Britain scored higher for difficulty and execution but missing out was again a disappointment for Ferrari because she was in the bronze medal position at the end of qualifying, although it later emerged that she was struggling with an Achilles tendon injury for which she had surgery later in 2016.

Rio was Ferrari’s third Olympics - the most at which any female Italian gymnast has competed - and although she once said she would retire after the 2012 Games she has ambitions to compete at a fourth in Tokyo in 2020 in the hope of clinching that elusive medal.

Since Rio, however, she has another Achilles tendon injury.  She has begun a coaching career alongside competing and hopes to be in Tokyo at least as a coach if not actually on the floor herself.

The Sforzesca Castle at Soncino, one of the neighbouring towns of Ferrari's home town of Orzonuovi
The Sforzesca Castle at Soncino, one of the neighbouring
towns of Ferrari's home town of Orzonuovi
Travel tip:

Orzinuovi is a town in Lombardy of just over 12,500 inhabitants about 30km (19 miles) southwest of Brescia and about 36km (22 miles) northeast of Cremona in an area of historical interest that includes the neighbouring town of Soncino, where there is well-preserved castle - the Rocca Sforzesca - built in 1473 for Galeazzo Maria Sforza and often used nowadays as a location for films and TV series, and the Casa degli Stampatori - Printers' House - where, in 1488, the first complete Jewish Bible in the world was printed.

Il Torrazzo in Cremona is the tallest bell tower in the whole of Italy
Il Torrazzo in Cremona is the tallest bell
tower in the whole of Italy
Travel tip:

Cremona is famous for having the tallest bell tower in Italy, il Torrazzo, which measures more than 112m (367ft) in height. The city is famous for violins, being the home of Antonio Stradivari and the Amati family, and there is a fascinating museum, the Museo Stradivariano in Via Ugolani Dati, which is dedicated to the city’s violin-making tradition of the 16th and 17th centuries. As well as violins, Cremona is also famous for producing confectionery. Negozio Sperlari in Via Solferino specialises in the city’s famous torrone (nougat), a concoction of almonds, honey and egg whites created to mark the marriage of Bianca Maria Visconti to Francesco Sforza in 1441, when the city was given to the bride as part of her dowry.

More reading:

How Valentina Vezzali became Italy's most successful female athlete

World records and Moscow gold for high jumper Sara Simeoni

Horrific accident that drove Francesca Porcellato to Paralympic glory

Also on this day:

1816: Lord Byron arrives in Venice

1869: The birth of assassin Gaetano Bresci

1928: The birth of film music maestro Ennio Morricone


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