If you believe, you can go anywhere
The Italian Giusy Versace is President of ‘Disability no Limits’. The national non-profit organization raises funds to secure high-tech aids for economically disadvantaged people with disabilities. Giusy is also a rising track star, notably the 100m (T43), with several national gold medals and an Italian record to her name.
Giusy’s life took a new direction in 2005 following a terrible traffic accident. She lost both her legs when the crash barriers smashed into her car as a result of the impact. Slowly, but steadily, sustained by her faith and support from family and friends, she reconstructed what she calls “the complicated puzzle that was my life before”. In 2010 she experienced the thrill of running again and before long, with encouragement from her mentors Fortunato Vinci (Italian Paralympic Committee) and Andrea Giannini (athlete and coach), she became deeply immersed in the world of competitive sprinting.
|Amputation||Bilateral - Below the knee|
Italian Open Championships (May), Torino
Championships Societari Fidal Lombardia (May), Milan
2011 Italian Indoor Championships, Ancona
Regional Championships, Reggio Calabria, Italy
International Meeting, Reggio Calabria, Valencia, Spain
Italian Championships, Padua
International Meeting, Singen, Germany
Who got you interested in sport and who has helped you most in your athletic career?
"My brother and my boyfriend were both big influences in getting me into running. Since then, my coach Andrea Giannini has been a great support."
What is a typical week of training like and what is the worst part?
"On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I always go running for at least two hours, then on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays I go to the gym in order to strengthen my muscles. The most tiring part for me is when I have to run the 200m, because my left limb is very short and I suffer on the curve."
Who would you say are your strongest competitors?
"I am actually one of only three bi-lateral amputees competing in the Women’s T43 category. The 18-year-old Marlou Van Rhijn (Netherlands) is a strong contender, but I will also be competing against T44 athletes like Marie Amelie Le Fur (France), April Holmes (USA) and Katrin Green (Germany)."
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
"Last year I ran the 100m in 00:15.80 but that race was not sanctioned by the IPC, so I would have to say the time I set in July 2011 of 00:16.18. Obviously I would like to continue with my running, but I would also like to try the Long Jump."
Who in your opinion is the greatest athlete ever?
"I wouldn’t say I have an idol as such, but I like Usain Bolt of course!"
What are your favorite Össur products and how has the company supported you?
"I really like the Iceross Comfort liners; they are very comfortable and resistant. The opportunity to run using the Flex-Foot Cheetah has been great and the training I’ve done with Peter Slijkhuis through Össur has been probably the most significant experience I have had since I started running. What is the best advice you have ever been given and do you draw on any inspirational quotes? The best advice I’ve had was, if you fall on the ground, don’t be afraid. Smile and stand up! And my personal motto is this: If you believe, you can go everywhere."
What is on your iPod when you are training and do you have any pre-event superstitions?
"I listen to Buddha bar, Mariah Carey, Madonna, U2, Coldplay, Giorgia, Elisa. Before a race I simply pray to the Virgin Mary. It helps me to face the race."
Who would play you in a film of your life?
"Angelina Jolie in Lara Croft."
If you weren't an athlete what would you be doing?
"I would definitely be working in fashion, but I would also continue to lead my charitable organization in order to help people who cannot afford to get technologically advanced prosthetics or wheel chairs, for example."
What do you like doing outside of your sporting life?
"I like reading, painting, having a drink with friends and catching up on all the news. Above all, I am usually organizing events to raise funds for Disability no Limits."
Born and raised in Reggio Calabria in southern Italy, Giusy Versace’s original career as a retail specialist for a major fashion company (not in fact Versace) has taken her to London and later Milan, where she has lived now for over 11 years.
Giusy’s life took a new direction in 2005 following a motorway accident in the midst of an horrific storm. All of a sudden, she lost control of the car and hit the crash barriers. Instead of protecting her, the impact sent the barriers smashing into her car. She remained conscious throughout the ordeal, which resulted in the loss of both her legs, a traumatic experience which immediately threw into question all the securities her life had held previously.
A pilgrimage and a puzzle
Sustained by a powerful faith, she kept smiling and never stopped fighting. A year after the accident, Giusy kept the promise she had made to herself and went to Lourdes to give thanks that she was alive. There, she found some of the answers she had been seeking, and every year she returns as a volunteer, accompanying people with disabilities on a pilgrimage to Lourdes.
“It took me about a year-and-a half of hard training to learn to walk again, regain my balance, to accept that I had to dress differently and to drive a car again. At that point, I still had to take the last, but not least important step to reconstruct the complicated puzzle that I called ‘my life before’, and that was my job.
“After so much effort and so many battles to rebuild everything in your life, you expect that everything can only get better, but it was then that I encountered my biggest disappointment. When I returned to work, a lot of things had changed. My desk was gone and I found many doors closed. After having worked there for nearly 10 years, my managers treated me as if I had not only lost both my legs, but my head too! I did not receive any interesting or challenging tasks anymore.”
In 2010 she went to a meeting that changed her life again, at the non-profit organization ‘Disability no Limits’. The charity raises awareness and funds to secure high-tech aids for economically disadvantaged people with disabilities. Today, Giusy is the organization’s President, a much more satisfying role, and dedicates much of her time to its important work.
It was also in 2010 that Giusy experienced the thrill of running again. “Many people said that I would never be able to run, but when I got my first running legs and started to run, I was so thrilled that I cried tears of joy!”
Fortunato Vinci of the Italian Paralympic Committee injected the motivation Giusy needed to get into competitive sport and by May 2010 she had won her first Gold medal. “This was my most valuable medal because that day in the stadium I met people who had claimed that I would never be able to run. My joy was so great that, despite my work commitments, I decided to continue. Then, I met my coach Andrea Giannini, who motivated me even more and took me to another level.” [www.andreagiannini.com]
“I am increasingly convinced that sport, especially for people with a disability, helps to increase your self-esteem. It’s also an important vehicle for comparison and integration, as well as a valuable instrument to help spread the true values of life.”