TOKYO. An unexpected dream, the thrill of being alongside the greatest athletes in the world, the dress rehearsal for his “grown-up” life. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are all this for Norah Milanesi, an 18-year-old just graduated from the Taramelli scientific high school in Pavia who, after completing the exam, took a plane to Japan, where she competed with the colors of Cameroon, mother Rachel’s country. In Pavia the cheering on Friday was all for her, who finished before her battery (5th) in the women’s 50 freestyle. Not enough to go on in the competition, but as his coach – who remained at home because of the pandemic and very restrictive regulations – says excitedly Mauro Comelli: «Being among the top 50 in the world is a huge thing».
In Italy it is 8 am, in Tokyo it is 3 pm. Norah is at the Olympic village – where she is sure she has a connection – and answers our phone call for a chat.
Norah, what is the best thing about this Olympic experience?
«The environment is really beautiful, it is wonderful to see all the athletes together, there is a spirit of friendship and solidarity in credible, very little rivalry. Of course, we are all competitive, but without rivalry. I found myself very well with my teammates too, it’s nice to see all these athletes who are really strong and train really hard. The Olympics are things you look at on television and know you are here … I hadn’t thought about it too much before, but when I think about it it’s something that somehow marks “
What struck you about the Olympic village?
«I am very happy to be here. The village is gigantic, there are skyscrapers and there are at least 19 buildings: I don’t know how many there are but I know there are at least 19, a girl I met lives there, in the nineteenth century. There are a lot of people, all sports. If you normally think when you go out with your friends that you are tall and muscular, come here and really change your mind. I saw a Chinese boy who must have been 2 meters and 40 meters tall, he must have had 60 in shoes. Here are really the best and the best athletes in the world ».
A motivating experience for your future?
«Motivating for me, and, I think, for every athlete, for those who have competitiveness and ambition. With some yesterday we were talking about the fact that some do not understand what drives an athlete who finished third, second or first not to be completely happy, it is the desire to do more and more. If you finish third you would like to have finished second, if you finish second you would like to have finished first, if you finish first you would have liked to beat a record ».
What do you bring home to Pavia from these Olympics?
“I have learned so much from others. I learned to train alone without a coach. Mine remained in Pavia, I trained with the coach of the Cameroonian team but it is not the same thing and I trained a lot by myself. Staying here made me mature a lot: soon I’m going to live alone, this was my first experience alone, I left in June ».
What will you do when you get back?
“I am leaving in August for Holland, where I will study computer engineering”.
Have you already met any Dutch athletes? And the other delegations?
«Some are perhaps a little closed, but they are very strong in swimming and in many other sports, so they are present with a large delegation, they are also strong in group sports. Then I met many athletes from the Senegal delegation and the African teams in general: the African delegations know each other well, there is a sort of spirit of brotherhood. And then some Italians and the swimmer from San Marino and her coach. I must say that I have talked to so many people! ».
And the friends of Pavia? Were they supportive?
«My friends were fantastic, they supported me a lot. I had asked that they not send me messages the day before, the “Good luck” always make me anxious. But they have always been close to me, since the end of June, when I left, we have always felt and they have remained close to me, always very close ».
Are you satisfied with your result?
«I am satisfied, it is my best time. These two years have been complicated, there was a lockown, I had problems with my knees and I could not train at my best. For the moment I am happy with the result, the excellent time and I hope to do better in the future ».