The three medals of Ambra Sabatini, Martina Caironi and Monica Contrafatto in the 100 meters tell the true, classic essence of sport
The three medals of the blue in the 100 meters at Tokyo Paralympics they tell us about the classic and true essence of sport.
The fact that three Italian athletes “told us” makes it exciting – for us who have always supported the Paralympics – this marvelously powerful undertaking.
When I speak of the classic essence of sport, I mean precisely original meaning of the Olympics. These are not a sub-category for unfortunate women and men. They are challenge, discipline, momentum, awareness of limitations and an effort to create new possibilities for oneself. Exactly what sport demands. Not a minor discipline, experienced as entertainment for handicapped people.
The Paralympics are, even more than the Olympics, the emblem of the Greek spirit of sporting challenge.
The classic spirit told the competitive spirit as the struggle you waged with your body between the self you wanted to try to be and the you that you already were. But it was not a struggle that led to the contempt of one’s body or the torture of one’s limit that you did not know how to accept. Far from it, the struggle had only one winner: themselves. Because the mixing took place, just as Protagoras defined it, between the you dreamed of and the you who are. Aspiring to know your limits means describing your borders not as a place where everything ends but as a place where yourself begins.
Our athletes have been able to mix just that: the dream of the result and the difficulties of living, they have mixed the dream and the possibility of grabbing it. Every attempt to be fulfilled, every attempt to proceed has as a result mixing, contamination. If you don’t try to mix with the dream, you remain anchored to the immanent everyday life.
The Paralympics were created, in 1960, by the neurologist Ludwig Guttmann that after the war he no longer wanted to see bodies abandoned to despair: to reactivate those lives still full of energy he decided to submit them to the challenge, that is, to self-knowledge. He no longer wanted to see doctors leave bodies debased only because they were considered by society to be lacking something, he wanted that absence to become the space for rebirth, a filling of life.
And isn’t this sport? Reactivate life? Isn’t this perhaps the search for knowing, that is, filling empty spaces, correcting the broken, rearranging existence in a new form? That’s how together with the Italian doctor Antonio Maglio the idea of organizing the Paralympics was born, as the beautiful book on Guttmann tells us A champion’s heart by Roberto Riccardi (La Giuntina).
Martina Caironi silver medal e Amber Sabatini gold medal lost their leg in an accident, Monica Contrafatto he lost his leg hit by shrapnel in Afghanistan.
When such a thing happens you don’t have many options, you have two avenues before you: either allow your life to be “amputated” or try to learn to walk just like when you were 12 months old. Starting again, being reborn, rebuilding oneself having as an opportunity not having to do it for the first time. But for the second and then a third and fourth time.
For Plato to train the mind, and therefore make it capable of reaching the difficult path towards the knowledge of ideas, it was a necessary exercise: on the one hand you train the body, on the other the mind, starting from the geometric calculation. Isocrates had another vision, for him there was no possibility of distinction between body and mind (sugkeisthai): so while you exercise the body you are already allowing the mind to train and vice versa. When you deal with calculation and rhetoric you are balancing your posture and the fiber of your muscles. When you educate yourself about the thought you are transforming your body, when you train it you are allowing the mind to enter new paths.
Sabatino, Caironi and Contrafatto on the track put this philosophical principle into practice: they kept the fiber of their mind. We recognize in them the effort, the redemption and the endurance because this is the essence of the sport that we like and exalt: the ability to resist, to allow the mind to be in control, to challenge – whatever the result – themselves and what happens to us in the adventure of life.
The Paralympics are so incredibly romantic because we all identify ourselves (even if we are not capable of stratospheric feats like our athletes) in the effort to resist the fate that would have taken me. And that it was three of our athletes who succeeded, to show us the way, well it’s wonderful.