Overcoming fears and limits, going ever forward. That is how you can summarize Paralympics. An event that evokes in our mind modern stadiums, facilities and equipment for every discipline, sports centers and accommodation with all sorts of comforts for the athletes. In Brazil, where it will take place in August, everything is ready: the athletics track, swimming pools for swimming and plunges… and parishes. Yes, because for the first time, a church will house Casa Italy during the Paralympic Games.
It was a pleasant surprise also for the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, when the Cardinal Ravasi mentioned it to him. Nobody had ever thought of it before. The parish hall will be prepared for the occasion, but without upsetting its pastoral life. Part of the funds, which are normally used for hotel accommodations, will be assigned to the implementation of Paralympic sports projects in some poor areas of Rio de Janeiro. These structures will remain in the city afterwards.
The idea belongs to Luca Pancalli, President of the Italian Paralympic Committee: “We are healthy carrier of positive values. I have imagined that Casa Italia was more attentive to substance than to shape.” He talked about it with Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, who involved also the Archbishop of Rio, Orani Joao Tempesta, who accepted the proposal: “Sports, like music, is a universal language: the attempt to overcome the finite and look for the infinite. A tension towards transcendence, which is even more symbolic, powerful, and evocative in Paralympics.” Ravasi’s words have echoed those pronounced by the Brazilian Cardinal: “The man only exists when he fights against his own limits. These athletes can become an emblem, the flag of men and women who are trying to go beyond, towards transcendence, towards the divine, or towards whatever lies beyond our horizon, preceding and surpassing us.”
After having chosen the parish, it was the time to choose the projects, including a football pitch for blind children, for which will be allocated over $ 50,000. “We will leave a sign – Pancalli explains -. We have extraordinary champions and we know we have more responsibilities in the world. “Champions such as Juliet Kaine, born in Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone, in 1983. She arrived in Italy in 1997. Welcomed by Pope John XXIII Community to cure bone tuberculosis that has made her paraplegic, she has dedicated her life to sports.
With his victories Juliet has become in no time rush athlete canoe, so that the Fick (the Italian Federation of canoe kayak) has been convened to the meetings of the National asking for her the “quota Cones”, assigned a derogation non Italian athletes, but strong federal interest. Without citizenship, however, he could not participate in international competitions. His passion for rowing was born by chance. “Catherine and Patrick De Carolis Bacchus, who are the president and a technician from Mutina (the ads with which competes ed) – says the athlete – I have noticed in the park near the swimming pool where they keep some workouts. I move with a hand bike: it takes some good arms to push it and they thought they could have the potential, so they asked me to try.”
With her victories, Juliet has quickly become one of the best athletes in canoeing. The Fick (the Italian canoe and kayak Federation) has convened her to the meetings of the National team asking the “Cones quota” for her, a derogation assigned only to non-Italian athletes, but of strong federal interest. Without the Italian citizenship, however, she could not partake in international competitions. Her passion for rowing was born by chance. “Caterina De Carolis e Patrizia Bacco, who are respectively the president and a technician of Mutina – the athlete says -, have noticed me in the park near the swimming pool where they carry out some workouts. I move around on a hand bike: it takes some strength to push it and they thought I might have potential, so they asked me to give it a try.”
“On a personal level the canoe gave me the courage to overcome new obstacles. But in my sporting success, besides my stubbornness, there is certainly also God’s help. I believe that in our life everything has a meaning, there is a project. Even this disease, after all, was a stage in my journey.” In case of victory in the Games, she has two dreams to pursue: “Take a driver’s license and have a special car. Then, I do not know if it is going to be possible, but I would like to bring my mom here.” Juliet’s life has changed thanks to sports. But sports demanded a change in her habits: “I work out every day, from Monday to Saturday. Many people ask me what motivates me to get in the water with the bitter cold, but if you want to be a true athlete, you have to. I had to change even my diet: my diet now, often imposes pasta with tomato sauce and white meat.”
For an athlete, diet is important, and Casa Italia, which will be inaugurated on September 6, the day before the Opening Ceremony, in the parish of Imaculada Conception, in the kitchen there will be an exceptional chef: Chef Rubio. “My task will be to show cooking as it is: friendship and sharing – said the former rugby player -. We will have friendship table where to stay together, where I will try to describe, through cooking, both our country and the territory that hosts us.” After all, sports means sharing. And these athletes show it with great humility: despite their “unfortunate” life, they thought about the last, about those who are like them, giving up on comforts and luxury hotels to revive the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro. Paralympic athletes have already won their gold medal, that of solidarity.