Athletes / Valentina Vezzali
The first fencer (foil) in the world to win three individual Olympic gold medals in three consecutive editions, plus a further three Olympic gold medals in team competitions, she also won a an individual silver and a bronze medal and a team bronze medal in the same event. Winner of six world titles as well and of five European titles (individual), in her career she has won the World Cup 11 times (78 matches won) and 15 times the individual national title, to which 12 team victories must also be added.
She is the Italian athlete who has won most medals overall and is considered by many to be the greatest fencer of all time. The only Italian athlete, together with fencer Edoardo Mangiarotti, to win six Olympic gold medals.
Born and raised in Jesi by parents originally from Reggio Emilia, the father from Correggio and the mother from Quattro Castella, she began fencing in 1980 at the Club Scherma Jesi. At the age of 15 she begins to reap her first successes in the World Cadet Championship (she will win three consecutive world titles).
In the under 20 category she wins one bronze medal (1990), one silver one (1992) and two gold ones (1993 and 1994) at the World Championships, two gold medals (1992 and 1993) at the European Championships; in addition, she wins the World Cup three times (from 1992 to 1994).
The successes she obtained in the under 20 category ensure she quickly becomes a part of the national team. In 1993 at the Linz European fencing championships she wins the bronze medal in the individual foil, achieves her first ever professional medal, whilst the first world medals are achieved the following year, with the silver medal both in the foil individual competition and in the team competition. At the Olympics she has won 9 Olympic medals: 6 Gold medals, 1 Silver and 2 Bronze ones.
In addition to the nine Olympic medals won, Valentina Vezzali has achieved numerous successes in other major fencing events. At the World Championships she has collected a total of 15 gold medals (6 individual and 9 team ones), 5 silver and 4 bronze medals, while at the European Championships she was awarded 13 gold medals (5 individual and 8 team ones), 4 silver and 4 bronze.
She won the World Cup 11 times. In the period between 1996 and 2004 she lost the trophy only in 1998 (finishing second behind Trillini), winning a total of 67 matches, an absolute record for fencing and also for an Italian athlete of any sport. She also boasts 2 gold medals at the Mediterranean Games (2001, 2009), 4 gold medals at the University Games (1995, 1997, 1999, 2001) and 20 Italian titles (11 individual and 9 team ones). She was number one in the world ranking uninterruptedly from 1996 up to her maternity leave after Athens 2004. Between 1999 and 2001 she won all the great events she took part in. Between 1999 and 2000 she won 56 consecutive matches.
Vezzali declared that she would continue competing up to the London Olympics 2012, for which she was the Italian flag bearer. She reaches the London semi-finals 2012, where she is defeated by her compatriot Arianna Errigo. In the final for the third place, just like 4 years beforehand, she had to face Nam from Korea, winning at extra time with a legendary comeback, which allowed her to recover a 4-point gap in just 13 seconds.
After the Olympics, however, Valentina decides not to retire from competitions and therefore continues to compete. Her first appointment back on stage coincides with the World Fencing Championships in Budapest in 2013, 83 days after the birth of her second son Andrea, and on that occasion she states her commitment to continue competing, hoping to reach the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Vezzali then wins the individual bronze medal and the team gold medal at the Fencing World Cup in Kazan 2014 in the foil category, bringing the number of medals won at the Fencing World Championships to 24. She wins the team foil gold medal at the European Fencing Championships in Montreux 2015 in Switzerland. She wins the gold medal at the World Fencing Championships in Moscow 2015 in the foil team competition. She wins the silver medal at the World Fencing Championships in Rio 2016 on 26th April in the Team competition, finishing her career with a total number of 26 medals won at the World Championships spread between individual and team competitions.