Giorgio Rubino was the best Italian male athlete in 2009, the year which confirmed the 23-year-old from Ostia near Rome as one of the best race walkers in the world.
Rubino won the European Walking Racing Cup in Metz (France) in May on a historic day for Italian athletics which claimed a fabulous sweep, as Rubino beat Ivano Brugnetti and his close friend Jacques Nkouloukidi, leading to the European Cup victory for his country.
“The win at the European Cup in Metz was a great surprise,” Rubino said. “I came from a difficult period as I had not fully recovered from the efforts at Rio Major and Sesto San Giovanni but this win showed our very good work from the psychological point of view. It was a tough race and this made it more special. I thank my coach Sandro Damilano for his advice and all those who are supporting me.”
Rubino also finished second behind 2004 Olympic 20Km champion Brugnetti at the Mediterranean Games in Pescara and crowned his successful season with a fourth place at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin in 1:19.50.
Rubino also improved his lifetime best to 1:19:37 in Rio Major during the Portuguese leg of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge where he finished second behind Chinese Hao Wang, who went on to win the World silver in Berlin later in the summer. In the process the Italian walker smashed his PB of 1:21:17 set in Leamington during the 2007 European Cup.
Despite fourth place showing in Berlin, pleased with progress
His fourth place in Berlin improved his previous best result set two years earlier in Osaka where he finished fifth. He produced the best result for Italian athletics at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin where he missed the podium by 38 seconds after leading the race in the first half of the race together with his compatriot Brugnetti and Norwegian Erik Tysse. The trio held a clear lead at halfway. Rubino kept the lead going through at 10km in 39:48 with a gap of 11 seconds over the chasing group. At 13km a trio of chasers led by Valeriy Borchin, Hao Wang and Luis Lopez caught Rubino and broke away building up a solid lead at 15km.
“I am a bit disappointed about my fourth place at the World Championships in Berlin. I went there with the goal to win a medal.”
“It was a season with ups and downs” Rubino said. “A medal in Berlin would have been the icing on the cake but the results achieved in 2009 are the starting point to work harder in the future.”
Coaching switch to guru Damilano signalled major shift
Rubino owes his recent good results to his coach change in 2009. After a difficult 2008 Olympic season plagued by injuries Rubino decided to leave Patrizio Parcesepe, the coach from Ostia who spotted his talent and guided him at the start of his career. Rubino moved to Saluzzo, where there is the famous School of Italian Walking, to be trained by Italian walking “guru” Sandro Damilano, the coach who won more than 40 medals in major events like the Olympic Games, the World Championships and the European Championships. The Damilano group notably features reigning 50 km Olympic champion Alex Schwazer and Olympic 20 km bronze medallist Elisa Rigaudo.
“I benefited a lot from training with Schwazer and Rigaudo in Saluzzo,” Rubino said. Walkers from all over the world come to Saluzzo to train for the major events. In the past former World and Olympic champion Jefferson Perez of Ecuador used the Saluzzo facilities to prepare for the World Championships in Osaka.
“I thank my first coach Patrizio Parcesepe who contributed to make me an international athlete but I realized that I could make a step forward in my career only by training with the best walkers."
"I have had the chance to learn a lot from training with athletes who are stronger than me. Chinese walkers have trained in Saluzzo. This has given me the chance to mature and grow as an athlete. I have improved my technique, and this year I increased my workload by walking 150 -170 km a week."
" Since I moved to Saluzzo, I have become more confident in my capabilities. I have full confidence in the training methods of my coach Sandro Damilano. There is a great relationship between us. We have created a great family in Saluzzo and I have met good friends here.”
“I thank my parents who have always supported my decisions and encouraged me. I miss my family but I proved that my choice to move to Saluzzo was right.”
Rubino began walking at the end of 1988 when he was contacted by former national team’s walker Patrizio Parcesepe at the end of a school middle distance race. At the beginning Rubino tried all athletics disciplines.
“I chose race walking because I was not particularly gifted for other disciplines,” he recalls.
In 2003 he nearly missed the podium at the World Youth Championships in Sherbrooke, Canada, but in 2004 he had a bad year in which he was disqualified at the World Cup in Naumburg and finished tenth at the World Junior Championships on home-turf in Grosseto.
The turning point of his career came in 2004 when he joined the Fiamme Gialle, the Italian Customs Officers club. He benefited from the conditions to train as a professional athlete and this paid off in terms of results. During those years he became the top walker of the youth walking school of the Fiamme Gialle. He won the bronze medal at the European Junior Championships in Kaunas 2005, finished eighth at the European Championships in Gothenburg 2006, and a remarkable fifth at the IAAF World Championships in Osaka at the age of 21 in 1:23:39 on a very hot and humid day.
Chihuahua World Cup and European champs the key goals in 2010
The result achieved in Osaka made Rubino one of the top Italian male athletes. Many pundits have regarded the young walker as the man able to continue the proud tradition of Italian walking and follow in the footsteps of luminaries such as Damilano and Brugnetti. Unfortunately, he could not fulfill his Olympic dream in Beijing because of physical problems during the season.
Rubino looks forward to a successful 2010 season, an important season for the world of walking with two top events: the IAAF World Cup in Chihuahua, Mexico, on 15-16 May, and the European Championships in Barcelona from 26th July to 1st August.
“I will start the season on 24 January when I will compete in a 35 km race in Viterbo against Alex Schwazer and Marco De Luca, who finished eighth in the 50 km at the World Championships in Berlin. It will be a great race for which I will have to be well prepared to face two world-class athletes."
"I will take part in Rio Major before a period of preparation in Albuquerque where we stay for three weeks before flying directly to Chihuahua. There it will be more difficult than at the World Championships as five athletes from each country can be entered. We are working to be competitive for the World Cup against the best walkers in the world.”
Apart from his hard training regime Rubino finds time to listening to music, his favourite pastime. “I enjoy to every kind of music from classical to Frank Sinatra and to disco music. I also enjoy meeting my friends in Saluzzo.”
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF