On the eve of the 2009 European Championships in Milan, a new book is exploring the personal stories of Italy's most famous gymnasts.
Italy's Vanessa Ferrari is seen through a chalkbowl at the 2008 European Championships
Ilaria Leccardi's "Polvere di Magnesio" ("Chalk") hits Italian bookstores on Wednesday. The 240-page book also will sell at the MediolanumForum in Milan, event site of the European Championships, April 2-5.
Former gymnast Leccardi, a journalist for newspaper "Tuttosport," told IG the book was born of an interview with a single gymnast.
"This work started during the European Championships in Amsterdam in April 2007, when I interviewed Italian gymnast Enrico Pozzo, who explained to me that he had to train in a bad gymnasium under the tiers of a football stadium in Novara," Leccardi said. "And so I started to think how many gymnasts train in such bad conditions."
Leccardi and former teammate Valeria Minelle began investigating the state of gymnastics in Italy.
"I discovered that a lot of Italian gymnasts have to train in bad conditions," said Leccardi, 26. "But I discovered even more problems of this sport, and my research became larger and deeper."
Leccardi began traveling around Italy to meet with Italian champions including Igor Cassina, Vanessa Ferrari, Carlotta Giovannini and Alberto Busnari, listening to what she called the "hidden stories" of gymnastics.
"For example, Adriana Crisci, great gymnast of 1990s, who was on the Italian team during the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and who had problems after her retirement from competition," Leccardi said. "Or, for example, the team in Ciriè (near Torino) in which boys and girls with mental disability do gymnastics in the larger movement of the Special Olympics. Or Kataklò, the theater company founded by Giulia Staccioli, ex-Italian rhythmic gymnastics champion, and featuring other former gymnasts."
"Polvere di Magnesio" features the stories of members of the Italian team at the 2009 European Championships: Busnari, Cassina, Matteo Morandi, Matteo Angioletti, Andrea Coppolino, Lia Parolari, Paola Galante and Serena Licchetta.
A new book on Italian gymnastics will be for sale at the European Championships in Milan.
In addition to current team members, the book covers past champions like Jury Chechi, Savino Guglielmetti, Alberto Braglia, Giovanni Carminucci, Andrea Massucchi and Boris Preti.
The book includes many personal struggles, including that of Crisci, who has attempted a new career in trampoline yet has been at odds with the Italian Gymnastics Federation.
"I think my story is the more interesting of all," Crisci told IG.
Leccardi said "Polvere di Magnesio" provides a positive yet honest portayal of the sport.
"I have been a gymnast and I love this world," she said. "It presents all the good things of this sport, the passion, the victories, the days of training, the great family of Italian gymnastics. But I think that even in gymnastics thare are problems, and so in the book I speak even about these problems: the inadequate gymnasiums, the difficulty faced by young girls who come out from the competition world, or the terrible injuries... These are problems that exist."
Leccardi will kick off a cross-country promotional book tour Monday in her hometown of Alessandria.
The book costs €18 and can be found in Italian bookstores beginning Wednesday, and can be ordered online from the publisher, Bradipolibri, at www.bradipolibri.it.