Besozzi, Long Jump World Youth bronze medallist in Debrecen 2001, and the promising hammer thrower Laura Gibilisco lead a strong italian team for the IAAF World Junior Championships in Grosseto (13-18 July) which will be represented by fifty-one athletes (22 men and 29 women).
The Los Angeles-born Andrew Howe-Besozzi, coached by his mother Renè Felton, a former international hurdler, is having a successful comeback from a 2003 season ravaged by a stress micro-fracture he suffered in a 200m race he won in 21.03 at last year's Brixia meeting, an international junior meeting traditionally held in Bressanone.
The talented Italian sprinter and long jumper competed at last summer's European Junior Championships where he anchored the 4x100 Italian team to fourth place, although he still hadn’t fully recovered from this injury.
Howe-Besozzi lost the rest of last year outdoor season and the indoor competitions because the injury took some months to be healed.
Howe-Besozzi’s life has changed since he has joined the strong military team Interforze Aeronautica. He is now a regular training partner of Marco Torrieri, one of the best italian sprinters who finished fifth in the 200 metres final at the 2003 World Indoor Championships in Birmingham.
The 2004 season started promisingly for him as he made his debut with a new national junior record over the rarely contested 150 metres distance with 15.3 and a test 300m run (33.7) in Rome on 25 April. He also ran the 100 metres in a wind-assisted 10.24 (+3.4 m/s) at the Italian Club Championships in Casal del Marmo, near Rome.
Howe-Besozzi astonished the Italian athletics pundits with a fabulous World junior season best of 8.01m in the Long Jump at the Italian Junior Club Championships on 22 May. The previous 2004 World best was held by Australia's John Thornell with 7.97m (Brisbane, 23 January). This mark also improved the 17-year-old national record set by Giuseppe Virzì with 7.92m.
The 19-year-old improved the Italian record for the second time this season with 8.04m during the Italian Junior Championships in Rieti on 11 June. The result, which currently tops the 2004 Italian senior lists, was made more sensational by the way he produced it. When he landed in the sandpit he lost about 20 centimetres by taking one step backwards. Some italian athletics enthusiasts who attended the National Championships in the Raul Guidobaldi Stadium in Rieti wondered what Andrew may have done if he had performed a perfect jump. Probably a magnificent jump in the region between 8.20-8.25 may have been possible.
This World junior leading mark makes Howe-Besozzi one of the favourites for the title in Grosseto but the fight for the podium will be wide open. In Grosseto Howe-Besozzi will face Australia’s John Thornell who also jumped a wind-assisted 8.00 in addition to his legal 7.97, Ukraine’s Viktor Kuznetsov (8.12 indoors on 20 December), Poland’s Marcin Starzak (8.01 indoors on 10 January), Godfrey Mokoena of South Africa (7.95) and Ahmed Fayez Al Dosari of Saudi Arabia (7.88).
Howe-Besozzi is also entered in the 200 metres, where he set a sensational PB of 20.99 at Bressanone in 2001 at the age of 16 and ran a season best 21.11 this year, and in the 4x400 relay.
Also in the relay squad will be Claudio Licciardello who ran a PB of 47.81 to take bronze at the European Youth Olympic Festival in Paris in 2003.
Howe-Besozzi is not the only prominent Italian athlete to watch in Grosseto. The hammer throw has produced some good athletes in Italy in the recent years following the surprising Olympic silver medal of Nicola Vizzoni in Sydney and the women Italian senior record of 70.43 set by Ester Balassini last year who have inspired a new generation of throwers.
Two of them are Laura Gibilisco and Silvia Salis. Both improved the national junior record three times during this season. Salis set the first of these three marks with a 61.70 release during the National Winter Throw Challenge in Ascoli Piceno last February.
Gibilisco, who finished fourth at the 2003 World Youth Championships in Sherbrooke, responded by improving this record to 62.61 in her native town Siracusa on 28 March. Gibilisco set her second Italian junior record of 62.66 during the Italian Junior Championships in Rieti. This mark stands seventh in the 2004 World junior lists led by China’s Wenxiu Zhang with a sensational 72.42.
The current outdoor season has revealed some promising young throwers like shot putter Eugenio Mannucci who set the national junior record with 18.49 (with the 6kg implement), now ranked seventh in the World junior list, javelin thrower Daniele Baiocchi, seventh in the world junior list with 70.40 and discus thrower Nazzareno Di Marco (56.10 with the 1.75 kg implement this year).
Vanessa Alesiani who finished fourth in the Triple Jump final in the World Youth Championships with 12.91, just two centimetres off the bronze medal, recently leapt to 13.24 and has the potential to attack the national junior record of 13.51 set by the italian rising star Simona La Mantia in 2001. Tania Vicenzino (PB 6.09), will compete in the long jump.
Sprint hurdler Veronica Borsi, a very promising athlete born in 1987, who finished fifth in the 100 metres Hurdles final at the 2003 World Youth Championships in Sherbrooke after setting a 13.56 PB in the semi-final, has already run the 100 metres Hurdles in 13.75 at last May's Brixia meeting in Bressanone.
Sprinter Giulia Arcioni enjoyed a marvellous 2003 outdoor season crowned by the participation in two 200 metres finals at the World Youth Championships in Sherbrooke (eighth in 24.47) and at the European Junior Championships in Tampere (seventh in 24.03). The 18-year-old sprinter from Rome, who spent one year in a US college in Ohio, will run the 200 metres and both the 4x100 and the 4x400 metres relays.
Another interesting sprinter is Maria Aurora Salvagno who took a double win in the 100 and the 200 metres at the Italian Junior Champs in Rieti.
Walkers Giorgio Rubino (fourth in Sherbrooke over the 10km distance) and Agnese Ragonesi will try to live up to the glorious Italian walking tradition.
The combined events competitions will feature Fabio Casiean in the Decathlon and Cecilia Ricali in the Heptathlon. Casiean, of Romanian origin, is the nephew of the 2.40 metres high jumper Sorin Matei and showed progress this year by clinching the qualifying standard with 6959 points and finishing third in the Long Jump at the Italian Junior Championships in Rieti with 7.22. Ricali scored 5398 points and finished second at the National Junior Champs in Rieti in both the Long Jump (5.88m) and the 100 metres Hurdles in 14.12.
Nicola Cascella considerably improved his PB to 52.10 in the 400 metres Hurdles in May and is set to improve this record in Grosseto.
In the middle distance events, eyes will be set on Anna Chiara Spigarolo, the daughter of former Olympic champion Gabriella Dorio, who famously won the 1500 metres in Los Angeles 1984.
Italian team leaders also selected some very young athletes who were born in 1987 or 1988 to enable them to get experience from the big event on home turf. The most interesting names are that of pole vaulter Elena Scarpellini (born in 1987) who improved the Italian youth record to 3.90 both indoors and outdoors this year, hammer thrower Lorenzo Rocchi (PB 66.30) and the high jumper Monica Cuperlo (born in 1988) who cleared 1.82 in 2004.
"We don't want to speak about medals. Our aim is to place ten athletes in the final and according to the starting lists we hope to achieve this goal," said Angelo D'Aprile, head coach for the Italian junior team, during an official press conference in Rome.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF
Italian team for the IAAF World Championships in Grosseto
100 metres: Alessandro Minen (PB 10.74)
200 metres: Andrew Howe Besozzi (PB 20.99)
400 metres: Claudio Licciardello (PB 47.81)
800 metres: Fabio Bortolotti (PB 1:49.85)
1500 metres: Giglio Iannone (PB 3:51.71)
5000 metres: Stefano La Rosa (PB 14:44.75)
10000 metres: Daniele Meucci (PB 31:00.00)
3000 metres steeplechase: Devis Licciardi (PB 9:11.10)
110 hurdles: Stefano Petrolli (PB 14.62) and Emanuele Abate (PB 14.64)
400 hurdles: Nicola Cascella (PB 52.10)
High Jump: Alberto Bedin (PB 2.12)
Long Jump: Andrew Howe Besozzi (PB 8.04)
Shot Put: Eugenio Mannucci (PB 18.49)
Discus Throw: Nazzareno Di Marco (PB 58.62)
Hammer Throw: Lorenzo Rocchi (PB 66.30)
Javelin Throw: Daniele Baiocchi (PB 70.40)
Decathlon: Fabio Casiean (PB 6959 points)
10 km walk: Giorgio Rubino (PB 41:56.99) and Mirco Dolci (PB 43:42.28)
4x400 relay: Andrew Howe Besozzi, Teo Turchi, Claudio Licciardello, Massimiliano Quirico, Emanuele Magi, Nicola Cascella
100 metres: Maria Aurora Salvagno (PB 11.83) and Chiara Gervasi (PB 11.89)
200 metres: Giulia Arcioni (PB 24.03)
400 metres: Maria Enrica Spacca (PB 55.39)
800 metres: Anna Chiara Spigarolo (PB 2:11.07)
1500 metres: Elisabetta Petracca (PB 4:32.73)
3000 metres: Aurora Ermini (PB 9:39.8)
5000 metres: Adelina De Soccio (PB 17:04.0)
3000 metres: Paola Bernardi Locatelli (PB 11:02.99) and Valentina Ghiazza (PB 11:19.43)
100 hurdles: Veronica Borsi (PB 13.75) and Giulia Tessaro (PB 14.03)
400 hurdles: Elisa Scardanzan (PB 1:00.35)
High Jump: Monica Cuperlo (PB 1.82)
Pole Vault: Elena Scarpellini (PB 3.90)
Long Jump: Tania Vicenzino (PB 6.09)
Triple Jump: Vanessa Alesiani (PB 13.09)
Hammer Throw: Laura Gibilisco (PB 62.66) and Silvia Salis (PB 61.70)
Javelin Throw: Silvia Salis (PB 51.29)
Heptathlon: Cecilia Ricali (PB 5398 points)
10 km walk: Agnese Ragonesi (PB 49:39.75) and Valentina Trapletti (PB 50:07.90)
4x100: Giulia Arcioni, Maria Aurora Salvagno, Chiara Gervasi, Simona Ciglia, Claudia Pacini, Micaela Ardessi
4x400: Giulia Arcioni, Maeva Gotti, Marta Milani, Elisa Scardanzan, Maria Enrica Spacca, Valentina Russo