Canoe. The champion from Pavia, fresh off the gold at the European Championships in K2 200, ready to rush towards Tokyo
The gold medal that Manfredi Rizza, born in 1991, won together with Andrea Di Liberto from Palermo, becoming the absolute European champion in the K2 200 meters has the flavor of a historic result. A continental title that in the history of Italian speed canoeing had managed to win only 4 legends of the discipline: Luca Negri from Pavia who in 1997 had put gold around his neck with both Antonio Rossi (1000), Beniamino Bonomi (500) and Josefa Ditto in 2001. A title that the Air Force champion, who grew up at Canottieri Ticino, felt he could make his own.
«Arriving in Poznan we knew that we would go into the water to play for a medal – says Rizza – In a season dedicated to K1, there was not much time for K2 but we immediately found an exceptional feeling on a technical and mental level. I knew I could trust Andrea in every respect and he knew he could do the same with me. They are undoubtedly my best crew: gold was the natural consequence. After being rivals throughout the first part of the season with participation in the Olympics at stake, we joined forces to give the Italy of the canoe a success that had been missing for 20 years. An alchemy was created with Andrea that I have seen a few times in my career: we are opponents but also friends. I believe that our K2 is the demonstration of how much the challenge we have created has pushed us over the limit. And with this title we have honored years of battles against each other ».
At the moment you are the only undefeated crew on the international scene. In September there will be the world championships for non-Olympic competitions, including the K2 200 meters, will it be an opportunity to see you again at work?
“I can’t deny that we’ve thought about it, the will is there but now the focus is all on the Games and for now I can’t afford to think about anything else.”
In Tokyo she will also be at the start in K1 200, a race that this season has already brought her bronze in the World Cup and fifth place in the European Championships.
«They were two very different races. In the World Cup I had to prove myself once again to be the strongest of the Italians to finally conquer the Olympic pass, for this reason together with my coach Stefano Loddo we had planned the preparation to reach the peak of form there. Having obtained the qualification, we knew that the European Championship would only be a stage of passage for the Olympics, however I am not satisfied with my performance «.
What will be the program of these last 40 days before the opening of the Games?
«Next week I will be passing through Pavia, before returning to Pusiano where I will stay until my departure for Japan which will take place in the last days of July. The only parenthesis will be the trip to Rome to join the delegation that will receive the flag from the President of the Republic ».
The goal at the Olympics? «Certainly do better than Rio (where Rizza finished sixth) I’m superstitious but I’m not afraid to say that I want to play for a medal».
The Tokyo Olympics will be the last with 200 meters scheduled, the distance that consecrated her to the elite of world canoeing.
«I am very sorry, not so much for me that little by little I am objectively approaching the end of my career but rather for the many young people who are showing great talent over this distance. The 200 is a wonderful race that has brought great innovation to the world of canoeing from a technical, performance and training planning point of view ».
Many new talents are growing on the banks of the Ticino. What advice do you feel you can give them?
“To always believe in it, to know how to accept defeats and go beyond”. –