Virtually as soon as he’d landed (August 30), we’d asked our founder to tell us his story of the Olympics to share with you all, and promised more Rio reminiscences. Here they are now. The reportage, this time, is from Human Tecar’s magnificent team in Rio: Cristian Martinelli, who coordinated the work and acted as Human Tecar contact point, and our specialized physiotherapists: Cristiano Ivan Carioni, Paolo Malpeli and Andrea Zullo from Italy, and Geórgia Casali from Brazil.
This team of ours proved its amazing synergy both in Rio (though not all four had all worked together previously) and during the interviews: we spoke to one at a time, yet their accounts were so much in sync the result was almost an ensemble story. In this regard, as at the adidas athletes’ service hub and the second hub we’d reserved for non-adidas athletes, we can say our team ran a record 4(+1)x400m relay at the Games, with such drive, passion and total commitment as are rarely met with.
Medals? “Their” athletes’, “our” athletes’. “LaShawn Merritt – Paolo Malpeli recalls (Paolo of the celebrated spaghetti sauces... but more of this shortly) – who’s at the stadium the only day we made time to go, he’s with his relay teammates, doing his lap of honor… The world press is taking pictures of the four winners beneath the US flag, and he just suddenly drops everything and walks away and towards us, literally makes a dive for Mario and our little group so he can give us a hug, say hello and thank us!” Or “the world record holder and 400m Olympic gold, Wayde Van Niekerk, who came to us for treatment every day before and after races, to prepare and recuperate,” says Andrea Zullo, “and thanked us in person again and again for the work we did”; Cristian Martinelli agrees: “I was really impressed by van Niekerk’s kindness, humility and gratitude.
We pampered him from start to finish; his girlfriend also got treatment once. When van Niekerk smashed the world record and was snowed under with interviews, he sent his girlfriend over, who said, ‘Thanks, guys, for what you did; the moment he’s free, he’ll come over in person’. The South African’s coach, too, the now world-famous Anna Botha, rushed back to see us again before catching her return flight, just so she could thank us ‘for what you’ve done’. It was so nice that, the only time we managed to go to the stadium, we were able to see van Niekerk win.
It’s such a good feeling when the winner is someone who really deserves it, as a person, not only an athlete.” Cristiano Carioni is the youngest, professionally, and confesses: “My experience was not as vast as the other therapists’; I was in London 2012 but at the time, had been following the Italian delegation and was not as familiar with so many champions from so many different countries. At first, I was a little worried that I might have to deal with prima donnas. Nothing of the sort: these top athletes were friendly, easy-going and accessible, and extremely grateful for what we were doing.”
In Paolo’s case, “Rio was my third Olympics. Every time, though, it’s an entirely different story. No matter how many of the athletes you’re already acquainted with, the nervous tension never fades. This time, moreover, we introduced the Human Tecar proprioceptive Mats and it’s always exciting to use the new technology the brand comes up with. It was a fantastic experience, both professionally and on a personal level.
Ours was a tremendous group; we worked incredibly well together – really hard, from eight in the morning to one at night, and sometimes it wasn’t easy but our passion and enthusiasm never wavered, and we got along so well that even when we had a short break, we preferred to stay together. In the evening, we didn’t even go out” – this is where the interviewers admiringly thought you really need to get along with your teammates if you’re ready to forgo Brazil’s many temptations – “and preferred to chill out and have a good ol’ plate of spaghetti…” A-ha! Here’s where we interrupted Paolo’s story and told him the secret of his delicious sauces was out.
Malpeli laughingly confessed, “well, I love to cook, so I actually had fun concocting something edible out of ingredients that were always a little different from what we have at home: it was hard to find basil, for instance, and Brazilian tomatoes are nothing like ours… Eventually, though, we managed quite well. One of the high points for me was when Taoufik Makhloufi won his medal and came straight to me and said, ‘look, you’re the first person I’m showing this to, no-one else has seen it yet’.”
Geórgia is smiling and radiant on Skype as she tells us, in her perfect Italian with a musical Brazilian lilt, that her fondest memory is a hug she got from Shaunae Miller, whom she treated the day before the Bahamian’s 400m gold: the day after winning the medal, Shaunae came back to the adidas hub “and hugged me really tight. There are just no words to describe what you feel when you help out these unbelievable athletes, who manage to be so humble and warm at the same time”.
Like the finest Olympic champions before us, we, too, in our own small way, would like to thank this spectacular team from the bottom of our hearts: for having honored Human Tecar as well as the Italian temperament’s best features (empathy and friendship first and foremost), not forgetting … traditional Italian cuisine.