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How a Paralympic athlete and an Olympic champion “won” the European swimming championships together 


Federnuoto | Instagram

Annalisa Teggi - published on 09/08/22

Arianna Sacripante and Giorgio Minisini swam together at the European Swimming Championships, and it was exquisite.

The European Swimming Championships in Rome concluded on Sunday, August 21. Italy dominated the pool competitions, winning 19 gold, 19 silver, and 14 bronze medals, for a total of 52. But another event, on the sidelines of the official competition, captured the interest and hearts of spectators.

If you didn’t see the performance of Paralympic athlete Arianna Sacripante together with Olympic champion Giorgio Minisini, let us tell you about it.

Friends and great athletes

They swam a synchronized swimming choreography together to the notes of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” The setting was the Gala Event, the closing celebration of the European Artistic Swimming Championships at the Foro Italico Park. Giorgio Minisini arrived wearing around his neck the 4 gold medals he had won in the previous days (2 as a soloist and 2 paired with Lucrezia Ruggiero). Arianna Sacripante, his partner in the performance, is an artistic swimmer with Down syndrome who won a gold medal at the Trisome Games in 2016.

They are two great athletes and friends who cannot compete together in official competitions, but they wanted to show what the face of future sports could be if athletes with disabilities competed together with people without disabilities.

They entered the pool holding hands and smiling. Arianna had a fractured toe from an injury during a training session, but no spectator could have noticed this detail. Their performance was excellent and flawless.

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Giorgio Minisini recounted the preparation for this performance this way:

We thought of it at the beginning of this year and trained for it mainly the week after the World Championships, and practiced it again an hour after my final today in the mixed competition. Arianna has such persistence that we made it possible. Given the times we are going through, we want to call attention to the dream of a cleaner, more inclusive world that thinks a little more about the weak.

The true talent of a champion

I watched it several times, one of them focusing on the figure of Giorgio. The one who dictates the tempo in the exercise is Arianna, and it’s beautiful to notice the look with which Minisini follows and accompanies his colleague. It’s the look of a champion becoming a companion. Each gesture arises as a response to Arianna’s movements. They are together, but not as two disinterested parallel lines.

As a soloist, Minisini is capable of breathtaking athletic performances of undisputed excellence. When he competes together with Lucrezia Ruggiero he creates a “monster” of rhythm, perfection, speed, and beauty that makes you think of superheroes.

When together with Arianna, Giorgio’s soul is revealed in the pool; he’s a talented athlete who doesn’t live only on pedestals.

The 26-year-old from Rome has been collaborating since 2018 with the Progetto Filippide, an association that allows athletes with cognitive disabilities like Arianna to get more involved in swimming. And “getting more involved” is an understatement. This discipline has proven to be particularly consonant with people with autism and Down syndrome. Today, they include athletes who have distinguished themselves on their own merits in international competitions, up to the Paralympics.

Sports are recognized by the medical-scientific world as an effective rehabilitative and therapeutic tool for all people with intellectual and relational disabilities. Participation in sports competitions in particular is crucial in order to become more aware of one’s psycho-physical limitations, of any degree, in an attempt to overcome them.

The spirit of the Filippide association is to demonstrate how, for individuals with mental disabilities, sports can become a functional tool for the acquisition of their own self-esteem and to improve their personal autonomy and social integration.

The images of Arianna and Giorgio’s performance showed a large audience that the word “inclusion” is not a nice abstract idea, but the possibility of amazing stories to be written in every social sphere.

The desire for synchronization

Synchronized swimming is magical for us spectators; we’re amazed at water acrobatics performed in unison. Synchronized swimming is the antithesis of our everyday relationships and movements

Arianna and Giorgio are two very different people in many ways, including their physical figures. Their highly successful athletic work is one of striving for collaboration, a synchronized dance that feels like a glimpse of Heaven. We carry within us this desire to really be together, to have company that overcomes our friction and stumbling.

It’s no accident that Dante filled the heavenly spheres with dances. Here on earth synchronization requires immense athletic effort; in Heaven it will be a gift we will fully enjoy without being Olympic champions.

DisabilitiesInspiring storiesParalympics
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