Tokyo 2020: The Italian athletes to watch at the Olympics

As Italy begins its bid for medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, here are five Italian athletes who stand to make their mark.

Tokyo 2020: The Italian athletes to watch at the Olympics
Gianmarco Tamberi, known for sporting half a beard, is one of Italy's medal hopes in the high jump. Photo by Antonin THUILLIER / AFP

Following Italy’s football victory in the Euro 2020 championship, more sports professionals are flying the green-white-and-red flag in Japan, claiming nine medals in the first weekend of the Games and currently placing ninth in the table.

Italy has already enjoyed success in taekwondo, freestyle swimming, the breaststroke, fencing and women’s skeet (a type of clay shooting) since the games started on Friday.

READ ALSO: Why do Italian athletes wear blue?

In the last Olympic games in Rio 2016, Italy brought home 28 medals in total – eight gold, 12 silver and eight bronze.

With one gold medal, four silver and four bronze medals under their belts so far, and another two weeks of competition to go, here are the top Italian competitors to watch.

Jessica Rossi: Shooting


Out of more than 370 Italian athletes – a record number to participate in the Olympic Games – Jessica Rossi is the Italian flagbearer and a former Olympic medal winner in the 2016 games.

She won a total of seven medals in the Games in Rio in 2016, four golds and three silvers, and hopes are high for this shooting talent.

Rossi started the sport young, under the guidance of her father, who was also an Italian shooting champion.

In 2009, at the age of 17, she won the Italian, European and world titles. At the London Olympics three years later, she continued her streak and set a new world record with a score of 99/100.

Her teammates have already paved the way for another Italian victory, with Diana Bacosi claiming the silver in women’s skeet. She dedicated her medal to “all Italians who have recovered from the pandemic”.

Frank Chamizo: Wrestling

This Italian-Cuban wrestler brought his talents to Italy in 2011 after becoming a World Cup champion at 18 years old.
He won the bronze medal for Italy in the 2016 Rio Games and now has his sights set on gold.
“Gold in Tokyo 2020 is my reason for living. So any result other than victory would take on the contours of failure,” he told the sporting newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport.
Even though he peaked at bronze in the last Olympics, his subsequent three European titles and a world title have now put all eyes on this champion fighter.
Federica Pellegrini: Freestyle swimming
Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP

The Venice-born swimming star, nicknamed ‘La Divina‘ (The Divine), is favourite to snatch a medal for Italy.
The Beijing 2008 Olympic champion is now taking part in her fifth Olympic Games. First taking to the international stage as a 16-year-old, she won an Olympic silver medal at Athens 2004.

She took gold in Beijing and is the only swimmer in history to win a medal at eight successive world championships in the same event.

For a sport that is known for its short career span due to burnout, Pellegrini’s success borders on, well, the divine.

As the only Italian swimmer to have set world records in more than one event (200m and 400m freestyle), this swimming prodigy is one to keep an eye on throughout the Tokyo Games. 

Gianmarco Tamberi: High jump

Photo by STEFANO RELLANDINI / Diamond League AG
He has half a beard (his name on Instagram is ‘Halfshave’) and wears different shoes, but this athlete wants to take the whole title in this year’s Olympics.
After an injury that prevented him from taking part in the 2016 Rio Games, Tamberi has his sights set high for Tokyo.
In the last Olympics, he achieved 2.40 metres before injuring his Achilles tendon in the last competition before the Games.
After training, Tamberi is back to regularly flying above 2.30 metres and has gained a European silver medal in the meantime.
Following one world title and two European titles, he’s now aiming for an Olympic victory, telling Vanity Fair: “This is the right year to try and complete the picture.”
Viviana Bottaro: Karate

This karate expert from Genoa is ready to make her mark in Tokyo. “It’s now or never,” she told Vanity Fair.
Bottaro has won many medals in both the world and European arenas, claiming three golds in European Championships.
She describes her career as “a fight against time” after breaking her fibula and tibia. But she’s undeterred.
“It’s time to dive in, or rather to ‘put your fist through’,” she says.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games run until August 8th. Find Italy’s schedule throughout here.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Spain women’s World Cup players demand more heads roll as Rubiales in court

The crisis within Spanish football deepened Friday as the women's World Cup winners demanded more heads roll at its scandal-hit RFEF federation whose disgraced ex-boss appeared in court on sexual assault charges.

Spain women's World Cup players demand more heads roll as Rubiales in court

Just hours after Luis Rubiales was quizzed by a judge for kissing midfielder Jenni Hermoso, all but two of Spain’s 23 World Cup players said they would not don the national shirt without deeper changes within the RFEF, demanding its current interim head also resign.

The statement came as the squad’s new coach Montse Tome was to announce the lineup for two upcoming UEFA Women’s Nations League matches against Sweden and Switzerland, which was promptly postponed, federation sources said.

“The changes put in place are not enough,” said a statement signed by 39 players, among them 21 of the 23 World Cup winners.

Demanding “fundamental changes to the RFEF’s leadership”, they called for the “resignation of the RFEF president” Pedro Rocha, who took over as interim leader when FIFA suspended Rubiales on August 26.

But the federation insisted Rocha would “lead the transition process within the RFEF until the next election”, insisting any changes would be made “gradually”.

A federation source said a leadership election could take place early next year.

“This institution is more important than individuals and it’s crucial it remains strong. We’ll work tirelessly to create stability first in order to progress later,” Rocha said in the statement.

Despite a string of recent changes, the federation remains in the hands of officials appointed by Rubiales, and the players are demanding structural changes “within the office of the president and the secretary general”.

Brought to court by a kiss

The bombshell came after days of optimism within the RFEF that the players would come round after it sacked controversial coach Jorge Vilda, appointed Tome in his stead and pledged further changes, not to mention Rubiales’ long-awaited resignation on Sunday.

On August 25, 81 Spain players, including the 23 world champions, had started a mass strike saying they would not play for the national team without significant changes at the head of the federation.

Earlier on Friday, Rubiales appeared in court where he was quizzed by Judge Francisco de Jorge who is heading up the investigation into the kiss, which sparked international outrage and saw him brought up on sexual assault charges.

At the end of the closed-door hearing, in which Rubiales repeated his claim that the kiss was consensual, the judge ordered him not to come within 200 metres of Hermoso and barred him from any contact with the player.

At the weekend, the 46-year-old had described the kiss as “a spontaneous act, a mutual act, an act that both consented to, which was… 100 percent non-sexual” in an interview with British broadcaster Piers Morgan.

Hermoso, 33, has insisted it was not, describing it as “an impulsive, macho act, out of place and with no type of consent on my part”.

Speaking to reporters outside court, Hermoso’s lawyer Carla Vall said they were “very satisfied” with the hearing.

“Thanks to this video, everyone can see there was no consent whatsoever and that is what we will demonstrate in court.”

Allegations of coercion

Hermoso herself will also testify before the judge at some stage, who will then have to decide whether or not to push ahead with the prosecution. No date has been given for her testimony.

The complaint against Rubiales, which was filed by the public prosecutors’ office, cites alleged offences of sexual assault and coercion.

Under a recent reform of the Spanish penal code, a non-consensual kiss can be considered sexual assault, a category which groups all types of sexual violence.

If found guilty, Rubiales could face anything from a fine to four years in prison, sources at the public prosecutors’ office have said.

In their complaint, prosecutors explained the offence of coercion related to Hermoso’s statement saying she “and those close to her had suffered constant ongoing pressure by Luis Rubiales and his professional entourage to justify and condone” his actions.

At the hearing, Rubiales also denied coercion.