The Top 10 People In Italian Sports: 2020 Edition

In a year with so little to celebrate, these men and women kept Italian sports alive, giving us a much needed reason to cheer them on.

Ciro Immobile Italian Sportsmen 2020
Ciro Immobile playing for the Italian National Team against Portugal. Clément Bucco-Lechat, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Although 2020 has been a terrible year for just about the entire world, the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic was particularly hard on Italian sports. Many events, such as the Olympic Games in Tokyo or Uefa Euro 2020, were postponed or cancelled, and when matches were played they were often surreal — although sometimes hilarious — without spectators in the stands. We lost a number of sporting icons, and not only to the virus: January took Kobe Bryant and onward to December with Paolo Rossi, with the shocking death of Diego Armando Maradona in the interim. While traditional sporting awards like the Ballon d’Or were not handed out, this year we have nonetheless kept up our tradition of naming the Top 10 Italian Sportspeople of 2020, in honour of those people who gave us a little entertainment, and a little hope, in an otherwise tragic year.

10. Lorenzo Sonego

Lorenzo Sonego
Lorenzo Sonego. si.robi, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Lorenzo Sonego is an emerging 25-years-old tennis player who won the 2019 Antalya Open in Turkey, part of the ATP World Tour 250. This year, despite the tremendous logistical difficulties and reduced training due to Covid-19, he nonetheless reached the final at the Bank Austria Tennis Trophy in Wien, part of the ATP World Tour 500. Though Sonego lost the match against the more experienced Russian player Andrej Rublëv, he showed determination and heart. He also took part in 2020 Roland Garros, where he advanced to the round of 16.

9. Ferdinando De Giorgi

Ferdinando De Giorgi
Ferdinando De Giorgi. Mati299, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Former multi-champion volleyball player and current coach of the Marche based Volley Lube club, Ferdinando de Giorgi had a formidable 2019 with a hat trick of the Italian Championship, CEV Champions League and FIVB Volleyball Men’s Club World Championship. In 2020, despite the suspension of almost all volleyball championships, De Giorgi managed an Italy Cup championship victory, taking out the Sir Safety Perugia team in the finals. When he’s not winning on the field he’s teaching others how: Ferdinando de Giorgi has authored two books, one of which is a motivational guide for coaches written in collaboration with the Palo Alto School.

8. Benedetta Pilato

Benedetta Pilato. Screenshot from OA Sports video.

At just 15 years old, Benedetta Pilato has already surpassed almost everyone in the swimming world, securing her place in the Top 10 for the second consecutive year. The Italian prodigy added record after record during the International Swimming League in Budapest in October. Her final 50 meter breaststroke clocked in at a record time of 28″81, finishing second after the American world champion Lilly King and equalling the European record time belonging to the Lithuanian Rūta Meilutytė.

7. Filippo Ganna

Filippo Ganna
Filippo Ganna. Ray Rogers from Novato, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Filippo Ganna is the current pride of the Italian cycling world, and with good reason. Though his speciality is track cycling he has proven he can compete also in road cycling, winning 4 stages in the 2020 Giro d’Italia. Born on the shores of Lake Maggiore, Ganna won the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin in February 2020, breaking the world record which already belonged to him. It was his fourth world title after London 2016, Apeldoorn 2018 and Pruszkow 2019. Though Ganna contracted coronavirus, he beat it and triumphed in the individual time trial at the UCI Road World Championships in Imola in September.

6. Dorothea Wierer

Italian Sports Dorothea Wierer
Dorothea Wierer. Christian Bier, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The 30 year old Italian biathlete won the Biathlon World Cup for the second year in a row and took two gold medals in the Biathlon World Championships 2020, which happened to take place in Rasen-Antholz, South Tyrol, the same town where she was born. Wierer is part of the sports section of the Guardia di Finanza, an Italian law enforcement agency and it was in the Guardia’s Alpine School in Predazzo where she met her future husband, Stefano Corradini, a shooting instructor. Her success gained her worldwide notoriety, though some of it was perhaps unwanted: when asked to do a photo shoot for Playboy Wierer declined, stating that she preferred target shooting instead.

5. Roberto Mancini

Roberto Mancini Italian Sports 2020
Roberto Mancini. Евгений Асмолов, CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons.

Roberto Mancini inherited a physically and mentally exhausted Italian national football team, reeling after the unbelievable missed qualification at the 2018 Russia World Cup. The Italian coach not only rebuilt the team to make it stronger: after an easy qualification at the Uefa Euro 2020 (postponed in summer 2021) also won the group stage of Uefa Nations League. Under his stewardship, the Italian national team entered the Nations League Finals alongside Belgium, France and Spain. The Finals are set to take place in Italy in October 2021 and with his excellent managerial skills and empathetic style, the team looks to regain their former glory.

4. Federica Brignone

Italian Sports Federica Brignone
Federica Brignone. Foto: Stefan Brending.

Just a few days before the Covid outbreak in Italy and the general lockdown, Federica Brignone won the 2020 Alpine Ski World Cup overall title, becoming the first Italian woman to ever win this competition. She also won a bronze medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang with a memorable giant slalom run. The 30 year old belongs to the sports division of the Caribinieri and is engaged to Nicolas Raffort, a fellow skier for the French team.

3. Michela Moioli

Michela Moioli. Screenshot from Olympic Channel video.

Snowboarder Michela Moioli is the first Italian to win a gold medal in the sport, claiming it at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Coming back from a serious knee ligament injury in 2014, she won her third Snowboard World Cup last March at the beginning of the lockdown in Italy. Born in Alzano Lombardo, one of the earliest epicentres of Covid-19 and among the worst hit areas in Italy, Moioli’s triumph was also a triumph for a traumatized regions, and her unforgettable exploits were honored by the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella.

2. Jannik Sinner

Italian Sports Jannik Sinner
Jannik Sinner. Beireke1, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Though most kids in South Tyrol grow up on skis, Jannik Sinner decided to pick up a racket and in the process, has become a formidable tennis player. The 19 year old became the first Italian minor tennis player to win an ATP Challanger Tour in February 2019 and in November he triumphed in the Next Generation ATP Finals 2019, a tournament reserved to the best players under 21. In 2020, Jannik secured a place for himself in the Mount Olympus of the game: he won his first ATP title at the Sofia Open in October, beating the Canadian Vasek Pospisil. But his masterpiece was at Roland Garros, where he reached the quarterfinal, becoming the youngest to do so in the French Open since 2006. His path ended with Rafael Nadal, who would go on to take the trophy at Roland Garros. Sinner finished his 2020 among the top-40 players in the ATP Rankings.

1. Ciro Immobile

Italian Sports Ciro Immobile
Ciro Immobile. Clément Bucco-Lechat, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

After winning the Italy Cup and the Italy Supercup in 2019 with his club, the SS Lazio striker and Italian national team member set record after record this year, winning the 2020 European Golden Boot in recognition. The award, given to the top European scorer, has only been won by two other Italians, Luca Toni and Francesco Totti. Immobile led SS Lazio to qualify in the Champions League and thanks to his scoring the Roman club passed the group stage and it is now expected in the round of 16 along with the leading European football clubs. Immobile, who turns 31 next February, started his career at Juventus and he played abroad with Borussia in Germany  and with Sevilla in Spain.

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