Piedmontese sports champions, past and present international excellences


Examples of tenacity and skill, international excellences, the pride of Italy and of their region of origin. There are many athletes from Piedmont that we would like to remember within the context of awarding Piedmont as "European Region of Sport".

We shall start with athletics. The less young will remember the feat of Livio Berruti from Turin, born in 1939, who broke the US dominance in the 200 metres at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, subsequently holding the world record in the speciality for three years. Maurizio Damilano from Scarnafigi in the province of Cuneo, was the 1980 Olympic track racewalking champion in Moscow and two times 20 km world champion. Maura Viceconte who was born in Susa in the province of Turin, and passed away in 2019, was a star of the Italian marathon at the turn of the 1990s and early 2000s. A former overall national record holder for the distance, she still holds the Italian 10,000-metre record.

Today's athletics champions: Riccardo Bagaini, class of 2000. Born in Sorengo, a small Swiss municipality in the canton of Ticino to a family originally from Lake Orta, he competes for GSH Sempione of Pallanzeno in the Verbano region. A Paralympic athletics champion, he is the Italian record holder at the Italian Indoor Championships. Roberto La Barbera from Alessandria, Paralympic world champion in the long jump at the World Masters M50 Championships in Malaga in 2018. There were two Piedmontese bronze medals at the 2021 European Paralympic Athletics Championships in Berlin: Marco Pentagoni from Vercelli, in the long jump, and Farhan Hadafo Adawe, a young Somalian who grew up in Turin, in the 100 metres wheelchair race.

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There have been many Piedmontese champions in cycling, beginning with the legendary figures of Fausto Coppi and Costante Girardengo. The former, born in Castellania in the province of Alessandria, was the most famous and successful racing cyclist between 1939 and 1960: five times winner of the Giro d'Italia (1940, 1947, 1949, 1952 and 1953) and twice winner of the Tour de France (1949 and 1952), he is considered one of the greatest and most popular athletes of all time. Even earlier, Costantino Girardengo, known as Costante, born in Novi Ligure in 1893 and a professional cyclist from 1912 to 1936, was the first "Campionissimo" in the history of Italian cycling, winning the Giro d'Italia twice (in 1919 and 1923); from 1937 he became the first technical commissioner of the national cycling team and in this capacity he guided Gino Bartali to success in the 1938 Tour de France. Also important is the palmarés of Nino Defilippis from Turin who, between 1952 and 1964, won nine stages in the Giro d'Italia, seven in the Tour de France and two in the Vuelta in Spain. Finally, Giovanni Valetti from Avigliano, who passed away in 1998, won the Giro d'Italia twice and was the first Italian to win a Tour de Suisse. Even today there is no shortage of young cyclists to enthral us with their victories: Elisa Balsamo from Cuneo, European champion in the track team pursuit. Filippo Ganna from Verbania, 2021 world champion in the individual pursuit time trial on the road and winner of four stages at the 2020 Giro d'Italia (three of which are time trials) and two stages at the 2021 Giro d'Italia (both time trials). Eleonora Gasparrini from Turin, European junior road cycling champion. Elisa Longo Borghini from Ornavasso, Olympic bronze medallist in the road race in 2016 and 2021 and world champion in the road race in 2012 in 2020, as well as eight-time national champion, five in the time trial and three in the road race. Matilde Vitillo from Asti, junior world champion in the track team pursuit.

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Snow sports have also been a source of great satisfaction for Piedmontese athletes, both past and present. The successes of Stefania Belmondo, a cross-country skier from Pietraporzio in the province of Cuneo, who won 10 Olympic medals, including two golds (Albertville 1992 and Salt Lake City 2002) and 23 World Cup victories, are unforgettable. Also unforgettable was Pierino Gros's gold at the XII Winter Olympics in Innsbruck in 1976 (men's special slalom), who also won a silver and a bronze medal. Also from upper Val Susa is Daniela Ceccarelli, originally from Castelli Romani but who has long since settled in Cesana Torinese, Olympic super-G champion in Salt Lake City in 2002. Finally, praise also goes to Max Blardone from Ossola, who came second in the 2005 World Cup giant slalom behind the legendary Bode Miller. There are currently three stars in Piedmontese skiing: Marta Bassino from Cuneo, world champion in parallel slalom in Cortina d'Ampezzo 2021 and winner of the Giant Slalom World Cup in 2021; Matteo Eydallin from Sauze d'Oulx, individual ski mountaineering world champion in Andorra 2021, and Valentina Greggio from Verbania, winner of the 2022 world title in speed skiing: with her incredible 201.29 km per hour, she was confirmed as the fastest female skier in the world for the third time.

Still to be mentioned: judoka Fabio Basile from Rivoli, Olympic champion in the 66 kg category in Rio de Janeiro 2016. Giorgio Cagnotto from Turin, one of the best Italian divers of all time: at the Olympics he won two silver medals (1972 and 1976) and two bronze medals (1972 and 1980), at the World Championships he won a bronze medal (1978); at the end of his career, he coached his daughter Tania, the first Italian female to win a medal at the World Championships. The legendary twins Martin and Bernard Dematteis from Val Varaita, winners of several mountain running competitions. Francesco Bagnaia from Turin, motorbike racer and 2018 Moto2 world champion. Francesco Molinari from Turin, the first Italian golfer to win a major tournament by winning the 147th British Open. And finally, Luigi Grattapaglia from Maretto in the province of Asti, world bocce ball champion in 2015 and 2021.