The case of Aru: Seneca said 'Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body"
You prepare all winter and spring for the appointment, the one with the capital A, the one which could tip the scale of the whole season and maybe your whole career. You prepare in such detail and it is on your mind so often that you can visualize it beforehand. You “live” through it thousands and thousands of times during training, during breaks, during the massages, before you actually do it.
It is as such that we become one with the objective, the goal, and it leads us to do our best until the designated day arrives, the day that is circled in red in our agenda and on the calendar. And we can have such objectives in all parts of our life, in work, in school and in sports.
Everybody can do this, from the very young to the Under 23, from the amateurs to the professionals. Well, you’ll say, that sounds just like the happy ending in the stories our mothers and grandmothers told us: the perfect university exam, the promotion at work, the victory….
Of course, it doesn’t always go like this. Sometimes our lives take a wrong turn and we are confronted with those ghosts which, during our preparation, we had hidden away in the deepest corners of our mind and thrown in a ravine, although we know too well that they are there and what they are made of. Unfortunately, we human beings don’t have the option “empty trashcan” like on the computer.
“And if I freeze? And if I am not able to reach my goal? And if something happens? And if I get sick some days before? And if I get hurt?”
Today I wanted to talk about a person that I have known since a long time and who is going through a difficult period from a professional point of view. You all are familiar with this person, it is Fabio Aru.
Fabio and I have known each for a very long time. I remember when I met him for the first time. It was in September 2005, during the preseason retreat of cyclo-cross at Fiuggi. At the time, to give new life to the movement, the national team of Scotti had summoned young people from all over Italy and as such a small Sardinian group of juniors were also present. There were three of them: Aru, Saiu and Biddau. I remember that they were always together as if they were one, tied together through pride. Their origins made them very different from us from the main land. I remember the sympathy for these three boys and how they viewed cycling differently from us “small professionals of the grass”. They had a more truthful, spontaneous and enjoyable approach, with the typical language of their wonderful region. Over time the talents of the tallest and longest-limbed of the three came bursting out in such abundance that thoughts started to turn towards a possible professional future on the bike. A few world championships in cyclo-cross, becoming part of one of the strongest under 23 teams in Italy and then finally the first step in to the world of professional cycling.
Fabio has made a lot of sacrifices. He left the island when he was young, leaving behind his family and roots in pursuit of a dream. As a boy he did not speak often but his eyes and smile said more than words could. He had a lot of class and an iron will.
His forced stop so close to the start of the Giro d'Italia, due to a fall during training and a subsequent knee injury, was on the front page of all the major sports newspapers. But behind such a newspaper title, what is there really?
There is disappointment, anger, impotence and all those negative emotions that can either bury us or be that which forces us to change and grow.
If you are wondering what is the one talent, from a mental point of view, that characterizes a Champion, I do not hesitate in saying 'resilience'. But what is resilience? Well, in psychology, resilience is the ability to deal positively with traumatic events, to positively reorganize your life in the face of difficulties, to rebuild yourself while remaining sensitive to the positive opportunities that life offers, without alienating your identity. The great Pietro Trabucchi said that in sports it is the athlete’s ability to "get back on the overturned boat".
"The ability to withstand stress, overcome obstacles and stay motivated in pursuing their goals." When life overturns our boat, some drown while others struggle to get back on top. The ancients captured the gesture of attempting to get back on an overturned boat with the word "resalio". Perhaps the name of the quality of those who never lose hope and continue to struggle against adversity, “resilience”, comes from here.
You have not been able to race in the Giro. You have not been able to prove how much
you are worth. You're disappointed and bitter about being forced to, despite your will, throw in the towel before you even fought. And this during a special Giro, the hundredth, that left from your Sardinia. We have confidence in the Champion that you are and that you will be able to go back doing what you do, and that this stop was just more fuel to keep the fire of your desire for revenge alive, your desire to prove to yourself and to others that it does not have to end like this. And I'm sure it will not end like this!
Seneca said: 'Difficulties strengthen the mind, work strengthens the body' and I agree.