Tokyo 2020: Luigi Samele, fencing for “hobbies” and the Olympics in pairs

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The day of the interview Luigi Samele, saber of the Italian team, is awake from 5:30 in the morning. It is not by choice and not even by insomnia. It’s for doping control. Indeed two. First he was awakened, then the doorbell rang again. «The doctor who checked me went away and after 15 seconds a doctor arrived. “I just did it” was my reply. Control wasn’t for me. ‘ It was for his partner, Olga Kharlan, Olympic saber champion with Ukraine. In short, a torque control, unusual because done together, but common on the eve of Olympic Games. “There is the time zone in Tokyo, we have begun to prepare ourselves like this” jokes the blue already Olympic bronze with 6 world and 10 European medals. On the platform already on Saturday 24 July for the individual and the week after with the team competition.

Is this a different Olympics for you?
«The emotion and the desire to play the Olympics are the same. The wait was longer. The preparation was the same. You can wait 10 years, but the Olympics will always be the Olympics ».

What are the differences between your Olympics?
«I face Tokyo in a more mature and conscious way. The first was a dream come true, like something I didn’t even think was possible. I face this with the awareness of wanting to do well after years of competitions, each of which shapes you ».

How was your passion for fencing born?
“By chance at 9 years old. I was at the barber’s with my mother and my older brother and a gentleman asked us if we wanted to try fencing. My mother said that in order to take us out of the house she would have us do everything and had her explain what fencing was. When he took us I didn’t like it, but my brother did and I was pleased to be with him. At first I wasn’t very good, then something changed ».

When did you understand instead that it could be a job?
“Others have understood it for me. The national team coach came to Foggia and told my coach that I was strong, while my teacher said that I was not and I didn’t even like competing. From then on I improved and moved to Rome reaching the senior national team. In three months I went from not wanting to fencing to pack my bags, change schools and move ».

It became a profession then.
«For me it remains a hobby, a fun. I can’t take sport as a job. Whenever I didn’t enjoy myself, I thought about quitting ».

And when will we really have to stop?
«I will sum up after these Olympics. If I am still competitive and if I have fun I will continue until Paris 2024. There is a bit of anxiety because part of your life ends. I would like to pass on my fencing knowledge, teach what can happen to a career athlete and anything can really happen ».

In Tokyo he will also play the team competition, the bronze one in London 2012. Is it different from the individual?
“When you are alone you cannot hold on to anything. It is a great satisfaction in winning, but you tend to downsize. Share with the team. There is no long face when the team wins. Winning together strengthens bonds. The London team is me and Aldo Montano, the other half has been renewed, but it is equally strong ».

From Foggia to Rome and now to Bologna with Virtus Scherma. Is the change useful for an athlete?
«To me, yes. I would almost say it is necessary even if there are people who perform better with their nearby lifeline. When I see that everything is still I go into anguish. Athletes are seen as war machines, but ultimately we all have a heart and a soul. There is no athlete who cannot be scratched ».

Favorite athlete?
“Many. Cristiano Ronaldo for his perseverance and the desire to overcome his own limits. He doesn’t play to win, but to outdo himself. I like tennis: Federer, Djokovic, Nadal. But we must always remember that they are people. For me they are a great source of inspiration ».

His partner is also an athlete.
“Yes and it is a great source of inspiration. I have always admired her as an athlete. Then luck wanted us to meet and start something more serious ».

Is it difficult to be with an athlete as an athlete?
«It is usually very difficult, especially with a strong athlete who needs to push their limits. In the moment in which the athlete and the person cross, it is not possible to separate the two. For me it is not a problem because I have always admired it. In the gym I watch it as an athlete, not as a boyfriend, at home it’s different. But it was she who taught me that there are priorities and that, when you have to prepare an Olympics, everything comes later: love, friends, fun, family ».

Olga Kharlan was also a model for a Barbie, one of those who teach girls that they can do anything.
“She was very proud, but I realized that when these things happen to you you can’t fully enjoy them. I was much happier than her. I was incredulous ».

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