19 October 2011Ivano Brugnetti, the 2004 Olympic champion in the 20Km Race Walk and 1999 World champion over 50Km, has announced he’ll be hanging up his walking shoes.
Brugnetti, 35, has been at or near the top of his sport since emerging as a force after he claimed a surprise victory at the World Championships in Seville in 1999. At just 22 years and 358 days old, he was, and remains, the youngest to ever strike World gold in the event.
“That’s still the biggest thrill,” Brugnetti remembers. “Just 22, the first major event for the national team, being unknown – it’s still difficult to describe what it was like to stand on the podium.” His 3:47:54 performance from Seville remained his personal best.
Five years later he struck Olympic gold over 20 kilometres, a distance that would remain his strongest.
“And Athens, of course, it was almost sacred, like touching the sky with your finger.” In the Greek capital, Brugnetti clocked 1:19:40, which would remain his fastest race until a 1:19:36 performance at the European Cup event in Leamington in May 2007.
While those two triumphs remain his fondest memories, Brugnetti recalls another performance as his finest race.
“If I have to say what my best race ever was, then I say Beijing, the 2008 Olympics. For many reasons, but mainly because it was not easy to be able to fight again for the podium. I finished in fifth place, nine seconds from the bronze. For me, it was another medal.”
Other notable achievements included the 2009 Mediterranean Games title in Pescara, and a second European Cup victory, in Metz, that same year.
Asked to look back on his career, did he manage to collect everything he was able to collect?
“No, I don’t think so,” he said, particularly noting his disqualification at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka. “I think I threw away the victory, I was in an amazing condition. But anyway,” he continued, with a laugh, “It's not so bad to stop with World and Olympic gold.”
On Saturday, Brugnetti walked a ceremonial 'last lap' at the Marble Stadium in Rome, accompanied by fellow Olympic champion Robert Korzeniowski. Their lap of the track came capped a national 10Km road competition which ended at the stadium. Maurizio Damilano, another former Olympic champion, was in attendance as well.
What he’ll do next is uncertain, but Brugnetti would like to remain involved in the sport that brought him so much.
"I don’t know yet. I'm ready for anything, although I'd like to stay involved with Race Walking. I feel I can give back in some way what I experienced in these years."
Marco Sicari/Fidal for the IAAF