Novella Calligaris, swimming the Strait of Messina to celebrate a record


By John

50 years after his first record, 8’52″973 in the 800 in the pool in Belgrade, Novella Calligaris is looking for another: celebrate that world record that amazed everyone with the crossing of the Strait of Messina, challenging currents and jellyfish. The great swimmer (a living sporting paradox: she is allergic to chlorine and like almost all swimming champions, distrusts the sea) dives on Saturday also to increasingly promote the image ofNational Association of Olympic athletes and Italian Azzurri of which she is president: in fact, accompanying her in the water will be an Olympian, Daniele Masala, who spent his time in youth swimming before moving on to the efforts and gold medals of the pentathlon. She is preparing with the tenacity that is typical of her, the Paduan-Roman: of course – she tells her friends – the jellyfish and some “tactical” errors (she bought the wrong wetsuit, made of water-absorbent fabric, so with each stroke she brought behind an excessive load with obvious inflammatory consequences in the arms) complicated her approach. But she’s in great shape now. “Perfectionist as I am – she reassured those around her – I did everything to get to the appointment right, of course I’ll make it.”

In short, at almost seventy years of age (she turns 69 in December), Lieta Novella, who finished competing at a very young age and faced the waves of life with inimitable style, returns to swimming. In truth, judging from some images, the class of the stroke, even in the sea, is intact: in fact, not only due to the many motivations and suggestions of the event, the 3.5 km that separate the island from the mainland, swam by Calligaris could become material for a documentary film and educational material. These days Novella Calligaris trains directly on the “competition field” in Messina with repetitions from 1000 to 1800 metres, which alternates with representation commitments on site (among other things, the Azzurri d’Italia association turns 75): between Scylla and Charybdis, in fact, everyone wants it because that little wren who scared the Walchirie of world swimming has remained in the collective imagination of Italians. The swimmer enjoys the situation for a while, shakes hands with a local administrator and takes some photos, then dives back towards her unexpected record.