Salesians at the Olympics
This post is based mostly on ANS reports, but other sources were used as well.
At least 6 Salesian past pupils took part in the 2012 Olympic games in London.
One was among the opening nite superstars; in fact, filmmaker Danny Boyle produced the four-hour, universally acclaimed spectacular on July 27. Two others took home medals—a gold and a bronze.
Danny is a “Salesian Old Boy” of Thornleigh Salesian College in Bolton, England (1973-1975), who, in the words of the New York Daily News, “conjured” the “five-ring extravaganza” of an opening program for the Games.
Danny considered entering the seminary in his youth, but one of his Salesian teachers told him, “You’re not ready for the priesthood, and the priesthood’s not ready for you.” Not long after, he discovered his vocation in film. ANS reported on him after he won an Oscar for best director for Slumdog Millionaire: http://www.infoans.org/1.asp?sez=1&sotSez=13&doc=3627&lingua=2 His 201o movie 127 Hours also won high praise.
Ruben Dario Limardo Gascon, a Venezuelan fencer from Ciudad Bolivar, won a gold medal in the men’s individual épée on Aug. 1 by beating Bartosz Piasecki of Norway, 15 points to 10. His victory gave Venezuela its 2d gold medal in Olympic history, the first in 44 years. “My childhood dream has come true,” Ruben commented.
Salesians from the East Polish Province have contributed to his growth and human development. Since 2003 he has been living in Lodz, where he began his university studies at the Salesian university college in the city, specializing in administration. He continued to attend there, alternating his studies with sporting competitions, until 2005. He trains with and competes for the Piast Gliwice team.
In an interview after his victory, the Olympian showed his appreciation for the country where he developed as a professional and declared that half the medal belonged to Poland. In this half of the medal, there are Salesian traces.
Swimmer Cesar Augusto Cielo Filho, 25, won a bronze medal in the 50-meter freestyle; in addition, he was world champion in this event in 2009 and 2011, and at the 2008 Olympics he won the gold in a record time of 21.30 seconds. He attended Instituto Salesiano Dom Bosco in Americana, Brazil, from 1994 to 1996, and he always remembers his old school with affection. Last year, for example, he returned to it with a TV crew to talk about his childhood in the school, and he used the occasion to greet the teachers and encourage the students.
Another fencer was Daryl Homer, a native of Jamaica who graduated from Salesian HS in New Rochelle in 2008 and has been fencing at St. John’s University in New York City since then; he was red-shirted during his senior year while training for the U.S. Olympic team.
In the opening round of the Games, Daryl bested a Romanian opponent in the saber competition, 15-11, and in the round of 16 defeated a Russian, 15-14. The road to glory ended, tho, in the quarterfinal round when he lost to another Romanian, 15-13.
Daryl is ranked no. 1 in the U.S. in saber.
Marcos Chuva, 23, an past pupil of Salesian School in Manique, Portugal, represented Portugal in the long jump. Marcos began his sports career in 2003 at the Salesian school, which he attended until October 2006. In 2007 he became an athlete with SL Benfica. In 2011 he came in 10th in the world championships and 2d in the European under-23 championships. He has kept in touch with the Salesians, and this year carried the torch at the 19th National Salesian Games. He wasn’t able to advance beyond the qualifying round on Aug. 3.
Maria Elisa Antonelli, who graduated from São José Institute in Resende, Brazil, in 2001, was part of the Brazilian beach volleyball team. Maria Elisa teamed with her usual companion in the doubles, Talita Antunes da Rocha. Last July they the Women’s World Beach Volleyball Tournament in Quebec; the win moved them up from 5th to 2nd in the world rankings at the time.
“We are going to London with a real chance of a gold medal with all four pairs. Certainly the unexpected can always happen, but the preparations have been excellent and we are ready to see the results of all our efforts,” the president of Brazil’s beach volleyball team declared. There are in fact four Brazilian pairs, two women’s and two men’s.
For Maria Elisa, it is a dream come true. “I watched the Beijing Olympics from the couch. This year I am taking part! I am among the best in Brazil, so it is a great joy but also a great responsibility, in that it is not just I and Talita, but we are representing our country in the most important of international sports competitions,” she said in an exclusive interview on the site of the São José Institute.
She also spoke about the Salesian contribution to her successful sports career. “It’s a different sort of school, offering the students a privileged path, and it was there that I first began playing volleyball. It’s amusing to think that I always tried to be the best in the competitions in school, and now I can try to be the best in the London Olympics!”
She also realizes that she is a role model for the young people at the Salesian school and feels the responsibility. “It’s a further encouragement to work harder for victory. I’m very proud and grateful for all those who have been and are part of my development in volleyball. If I have got where I am, I owe a lot to the Salesians, and now I count on all their support,” she concluded.
Maria Elisa and Talita won several matches but lost to the Czech team and were eliminated on Aug. 4.