Interviewing Daniele Garozzo, the gold medalist in the Men’s Individual Foil at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.
Daniele, you’re the best fencer in the world. How is a gold medal earned?
We could say that you win it like any other one, but you earn it in a lifetime. It requires tremendous dedication. I started practicing at seven: I have always dreamt of that medal. What is needed is both luck and talent, but mainly a strong will for training.
Taking a look at the history of the renowned Acireale fencing school, and the champions that belong there, it seems kind of obvious that the environment is a cornerstone to creating champions.
I was lucky to have been accepted into such a wonderful school, and they helped me a lot. We weren’t many people, but there was a positive environment, that made me feel at home, as i would be with my family. My first instructor mr. Patti was a true trainer of champions. Those of us that still compete at a senior level are 3 out of 20-25. That’s not by chance. He helped us to fight, taught us to always be tough and strong.
His training was the cornerstone to my success.
We can say that fencing uses the entire muscular system within the body and that requires focus and fast reflexes, due to the fact that you’re constantly fighting. Do you agree with that?
I agree, and I’ll like to add that, in modern days, physical conditioning is a pre-requirement, as it has become more apparent in any other sport. We obviously exercise a lot at a technical level by measuring our activity, in terms of attack, defense and so on. From a physical standpoint, we have fencing exercises to improve balance but we also participate in endurance training, weight-lifting and other exercises that are quite common amongst athletes.
How could you be able to tell if an instructor is more or less capable?
In fencing, the technical skills are of primary importance, and I’m actually trained by Paolo Galli, who is the best fencing coach in the world, and that matters. His methodology is brilliant and he changed the way in which we think about fencing, and that allows you to be a winner. He’s a really good person, and the relationship with your coach should be very tight. I have a very positive and empathetic relationship with him.
How much do you train from a psychological side compared to the physical one?
I’ve worked a lot on the psychological aspect of my training, which is particularly prominent in my sport. The last moment of approach to the game is the most important of all. I’ve worked a lot with my mental coach, she is very skilled. It’s a complex activity that allows you to face your workload and the competitions differently, and help you to improve your quality of life.
There are a lot of fencing fans, even if the media talks about it only during the Olympics Games. Maybe more than what we think, even factoring into the equation the difficulty in watching fencing tournaments, however when fencing is on air, the audience are genuinely interested in watching.
I agree, maybe more attention by the media and a better understanding of our sport is needed.
Is it true that it is harder to win again when you’re the champion, due to the expectation and pressure that the media and others may have on you?
It’s more a matter of the people around you rather than the media, which I usually don’t pay attention to. But you can get acquainted, even with the expectation of those around you, that inevitably grows after an important win.
When would you suggest that young boys or girls start practicing fencing?
Fencing is different. It really depends on the mental and physical conditioning of the individual. The satisfaction of conducting a winning assault is somehow similar to when a chess player wins by imposing on his opponent, his own way of thinking. It’s an elegant sport that stimulates intelligence.
Will we see you competing in Tokyo?
The Olympic Games are a once-in-a-lifetime experience and they teach us that sport always unites. I’ve lived it in first person when, at the cafeteria, competitors from both Koreas sang together.
Participating in an Olympic competition was a dream come true for me. The idea of being there is the same: creating new dreams.