5th of November 2020. A day like any other, working from home, as per the new usual of this 2020. This is what I thought when I woke up today. I woke up, went through my morning routine, listened to some music on the radio while having breakfast, the song that stuck with me today is Kings and Queens from Ava Max. Something unusual that I don’t really do before midday, I scrolled through Instagram before getting to start my to do list for the day.
The first post and story that I saw is from the Italian Volleyball Federation. It celebrates Antonella Del Core’s birthday! It brightened up my day! A lot of happy memories came back. She is the other reason why I fell in love with our game, other than my sister.
When I was just about 8 years old, Antonella was my favourite player (she still is, I am not going to lie). I remember when she was one of the shining stars of Italian Volleyball, first playing for Perugia and then for the legendary Pesaro. Bergamo and then a couple of seasons abroad in Turkey and Russia and of course wearing the National Team uniform in many international competitions (3 Olympics, and 2 gold medals at the European Championships 2007 and 2009 and many other titles, but I won’t bore you with them here).
I was obsessed. She was just so good! One day I decided I wanted to reach out to her just to tell her how amazing she was and that she was an inspiration for me (what a geek, I know). I asked my parents if we could send her an email, I think she must have had her own web page at the time.
So, I sat down with my parents and we sent her an email. And guess what: she replied! Not only she was an extremely good player, she also dedicated some time of her busy days to reply to an 8 years old mini volleyball player. I felt as if I had just landed on the moon when my parents told me she replied. We exchanged quite a few emails over the years, and I was just so inspired and happy every time I got to read her words. It is really hard to put into words but imagine the feeling of a player from the Italian Super League writing to you when you are a kid, it is just like Michael Jordan writing to you! Unbelievable!
Sounds a cool story I know, but it does get even better! It was my birthday and I received post. Very unusual. It was Antonella! She had sent me a birthday card, some of her autographed pictures and…..drum roll…. Her shorts from the National team uniform!!!!! I could not be happier! In the letter she mentioned my sister Petra, who had organised the surprise. It meant the world to me. To this day I am grateful to Antonella and to my sister for having such an extraordinary idea for my birthday.
In hindsight, with hand on heart, I can say she had a huge impact on me. I found the determination and strength to aspire to in the athlete that she was, but I also found the kindness, brightness and liveliness in the person that she is and the person I would like to be. I am never going to forget this. I can say that she left a mark on me, because I got the chance to understand what sportsmanship is and, most importantly, she made me realise at a very early stage that sport is made of people, and this is what I love the most about it!
Now that I am working for Scottish Volleyball while pursuing a postgraduate degree in the sport field, I have the ambition of impacting someone else’s life, in the same way Antonella did with me. Sports does have the power of changing lives, and I am happy to get to live and breath this environment every day. In this weird period, an Instagram post made me realise that I am lucky enough to have the ability to focus on what I can do and who I want to be rather than on what I cannot. Today I choose to be happy and I wish Antonella the best birthday!
Ps: still to this day, my uniform number is 15!