Enrico, what exactly caused Vanessa’s problems in Beijing? She stopped training from the
end of April through June 9. She had to stop
training for four months, or take the risk and
stop for 40 days. In Beijing we didn’t say anything about it. She did nothing except some bars,
but nothing with her legs. On June 9 we had an
appointment with the doctor, and on June 10 we
started. Two months later we had to compete
with the acrobatics. We took the risk and she
made the Olympics, but then she has had to stop
again for four months.
Was her performance in Beijing impacted
only by the Achilles’ injury, or something
else? It was just a problem with the tendon. In
Stuttgart she had a microfracture in her left foot.
Now she has a problem with her right Achilles’
tendon. She never did the double-double (on
floor) in training, because it was impossible.
When we arrived in Beijing, we saw that the
other teams were prepared. The American team
was very well prepared. They could do all their
routines, no problem, and Shawn (Johnson,
U.S.) could do the double-double. That was our
situation. It wasn’t important for Vanessa to get
seventh, eighth or 11th place. For her, the most
important thing was to try. She tried, but she was
everything. She was a good age and in good
shape. In 2007, until 10 days before we left for
Stuttgart, her foot was OK.
Then the feet problems started and have been
a problem since. If she was in the condition of
Aarhus (2006 worlds) or Amsterdam (2007
Europeans), where she made 62 points, she was
in a position to be on the medal podium. After
Stuttgart she had a rest till December. Then she
began again and had the tendon problem. We
had a lot of problems. We had to start and stop,
start and stop.
What are some of the new skills you plan to
introduce this year? We have some elements
we have never shown. In 2006, for tactical reasons, it was better not to show them. Then, in
2007, she had the injury. In 2008 she had some
new things that were not ready. First, we need to
find the gymnast, and then we can speak about
What was the most frustrating thing about
the situation for you as a coach? 2008 was
very unlucky. In 2005 and 2006 Vanessa won
Besides Vanessa’s injury, why do you think
your team didn’t have more success in
Beijing? We don’t do anything in competition
that we haven’t been doing consistently
in training. Sometimes you see Ukraine
or Belarus trying something in competition that doesn’t look like something
they’ve done in training. We don’t do
But we couldn’t, because we had
(Federica) Macri, who tore her Achilles
in February, and she was in Beijing.
(Monica) Bergamelli was in her third
Olympic Games. (Francesca) Benolli
had a problem with her toe in the
preparation, and she had to stop (
training for a while), too. (2007 worlds team
member Silvia) Zanolo and (2006 world
team member Lorena) Cosa were out.
In China and the U.S., if one gymnast
is out, you have others. We have nine or
10 gymnasts. We had only three gymnasts without physical problems during
the preparation. One was Lia Parolari.
She had a good competition. Another
was Bergamelli, and the third was Sara
Bradascia, who stayed home because
she had a low level (of difficulty).
We didn’t have a good competition
on the first day. We had one mistake
from (Carlotta) Giovannini, one from
Parolari, and two from Vanessa. All
these mistakes counted, and four mistakes are too much. But for Vanessa
and probably Lia, there is one more
(Olympics). We were unlucky because
we didn’t arrive in the best condition.
How did you keep Vanessa motivated, both
of you knowing she wasn’t in condition to
challenge for a medal? It was very difficult. We
were here (in Brixia) till July 26, and we knew we
couldn’t really compete (for a medal). But it’s difficult to stay home when you’re third in the world
(2007, when Ferrari was the co-bronze medalist). It’s difficult to stay focused in training, realizing it’s possible to get sixth or seventh place. It’s
not so easy for Vanessa. Maybe it would be easy
for another gymnast who just wants to make the
final, but if you are the world and European
champion, it’s difficult to know you cannot compete at your best.
I know that, in Aarhus, (2005 world all-around
silver medalist Nastia) Liukin had a foot problem
and could do only one apparatus. At the time I
think she could have won. (2005 world all-around champion Chellsie) Memmel couldn’t
compete in the all-around final, but she could
have won. We could stay home and not compete
in the Olympic Games, or go and get 11th
[laughs] with a mistake. But it wasn’t a program
with which Vanessa could have won. The podium is for gymnasts who are very well prepared,
so if you aren’t…
Then, how satisfied were you and Vanessa
with her final ranking at the Olympics? Just
to be in the Olympic Games—sometimes a gymnast will lose this opportunity and never have
another chance. Vanessa was happy to be there.
She wasn’t a protagonist or in good shape, but I
think it was a good thing for her to be there.
Also, it may be important for her mind—to see
that, sometimes, you cannot be at the top every
time you compete. From 2004 till Stuttgart, she
probably won everything—Europeans, worlds,
Mediterranean Games. We know that it’s not
possible to win every time.
How are you preparing to handle Vanessa
going forward? Now she is 18, a difficult age
… she’s grown up, so we have to adapt. Plus,
the injury. And all of this happened in one year!
She’s changed. She’s become a woman. She will
need to stay quiet and wait. And if she’s able to
understand this, she can work to be, maybe in a
year, at the top level again. You have to rebuild,
independent of the tendon, because this is not a
little injury. You have to wait and repair, plus go
to physical therapy.
What is Vanessa’s public profile like now,
this long after she won the world title? She is
still famous, because in Italy, you are a world
champion for life. IG