John Bensalhia looks at the facts and figures over past performances to determine the highs and lows of past Italian Olympic teams...
Most Successful Years
The great thing about the most successful years for Italian medal wins is that there is no such thing as a golden age (if you'll pardon the expression). Looking at the statistics, the results show that for the most part, Italian Olympic competitors have always been successful in what they do. The successful years span a long range from the early 1930s to the 21st century.
This is going all the way back to 1932 in Los Angeles, when 36 medals were won by Italians. This is the biggest amount of medals won, along with the same number in 1960 – naturally enough, this is the year in which the Olympic Games came home to Italy, with a show-stopping spectacular in Rome.
The next most successful campaign for medals came some time later in 1996, with 35 medal wins for Italy. Four years later, the bid for medal wins was very nearly as successful when the Italian Olympics squad went to Sydney, with a haul of 34. And four years after that, it was another strong showing for Italy, who picked up 32 medals, which equalled Italy's performance in Los Angeles in 1984.
Going for Gold
Unsurprisingly, taking the above figures into account, most of the years documented above have resulted in a good number of gold medal wins. The golden year was 1984, in Los Angeles, when 14 gold medals were won by the Italian team. There were four years when Italy collected 13 gold medals – 1920 (Antwerp), 1960 (Rome), 1996 (Atlanta) and 2000 (Sydney). The previous Los Angeles tournament also proved to be successful for Italy, with 12 gold medal wins.
Alberto Cova - Gold Medal in the 10'000 m - Los Angeles 1984
Least Successful Years
There's a reason why there weren't so many Italian medal wins at the turn of the 20th century – at the time, the Olympic Games were still in their infancy, and were smaller in scale. So, with only four medals won by Italy in London in 1908, five in Paris in 1900 and six in Stockholm in 1912. The 1908 campaign is particularly ironic, given that Italy was very nearly the host nation for that year, but unfortunately the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1906 meant that the country had to pull out.
Sadly, the mid 1970s and 1980s were somewhat patchy. While 1984 had proven to be a huge winner for the Italian team, the other two 1980s Olympics in Moscow (1980) and Seoul (1988) had yielded only half the number of medals. 15 were won in 1980, while 14 were won in 1988. 1976 had also proven to be more muted, with 13 medals.
The lowest amount of gold medals taken home by the Italian team were in 1908 (London) and 1976 (Montreal) – only two were won in both of these years.
Most Successful Sector
Fencing is the key sector for Italy - many medals have been won by professional Italian fencers in the Olympic Games over the years, right from the 1920s through to the Noughties. The most successful Olympic fencer is Edoardo Mangiarotti, who won a hugely impressive 13 medals between 1936 and 1960 – to be precise, Mangiarotti took home six gold medals, five silver and two bronze. Slightly earlier on the scene was Giulio Gaudini, who started winning medals in 1928, and won victory for eight more years. Gaudini won three golds, four silvers and two bronze medals.
The next most successful Olympic fencer comes up to date in the form of Giovanna Trillini, who won eight medals between 1992 and 2008 – four golds, one silver and three bronzes were achieved by Trillini. Another modern competitor (and one who will hope for good things at this year's Olympics tournament) is Valentina Vezzali. She has won a total of seven medals, which were claimed between 1996 and 2008. One silver and one bronze took pride of place against five impressive gold runs.
Equalling Vezzali's run of medal victory is Gustavo Marzi, who also achieved seven medals, but considerably earlier, again between 1928 and 1936 – Marzi won two gold medals and five silver.
Most Appearances at the Olympics
Now and again, the field of sport always includes what we call the 'veterans'. The ones who participate time and again, and prove to have apparently limitless supplies of energy, even in their twilight years. In Italian Olympics, by far the most prolific competitors were the D'Inzeo brothers, Piero and Raimondo, who both made eight Olympic appearances between 1948 and 1976. The two talented equestrians scored six medals apiece, with Piero taking home two silvers and four bronzes, and Raimondo winning one gold, two silvers and three bronzes.
Canoeist Josefa Idem is the most prolific out of the modern batch of Italian Olympic sports men and women. She has competed seven times between 1984 and 2008, and has won five medals in total – one gold, two silvers and two bronzes.
Most Successful Male Gold Medalist
Taking into account the amount of gold medals won only at the Summer Olympic Games, it's fencer Edoardo Mangiarotti, who went gold 13 times – four times as an individual and nine times as part of a team.
Most Successful Female Gold Medallist
In addition to the aforementioned Valentina Vezzali, Josefa Idem and Giovanna Trillini, windsurfer Alessandra Sensini have won four gold medals in summer Olympic tournaments.