They're baby queens. Their nobility is in the grace of movements, in how they lift their chins before entering the floor and face the proof, in the perfect rigidity they walk, telling they're ready to performe. Seven little girls, between 14 and 17 (plus three reserves), full of will, live a special youth: they're together day and night in a hotel in Desio, near Milan, preparing themselves to represent Italy for the next Olympic games: Athens 2004.
8 a.m.: they're already on the floor trying and trying the same jump, trying to find the right coordination, trying to throw the clubs and to catch them with the athlete sureness and dancer elegance. "You're late", "More decision catching": their coach, Emanuela Maccarani, stop music and correct the movement. Just this way, until evening.
On April, the first international test in Kalamata, Greece. Then, Bulgaria, France. Until Athens: the dream. Here there is, directly from their voices, where they started and where they want to arrive.
"We all have fixed our mind: we look ourselves into the mirror and we see fat where there isn't"
One minute before competition - "I have a tough stomachache. When I hear the speaker calling our team I get upset, but, as soon as I hear the "go", I start the routine and everything's alright".
Being in the national team - "Representing your own country makes you have tears in your eyes. You enter the floor and there is a lot of people shouting: 'Italy, Italy'. Even lights seem different! There is me and a beam lighting up me: all around there is the dark, just like on stage".
The group - "We're friends but between us there is competition, as well. We get upset each other, especially when we're tired. If one girl throws me short for the 20th time, well, I tell her in an unkind way".
In 10 years - "I'd like to become coach, in my Genova. But, sincerely, I'd prefer becoming model".
"I saw a video of the last Olympic Games. I thought: 'Will I be there? Help!' "
Responsability - "Of course I feel the burden of responsability! I'm 14 and I have as a prospective the Olympic Games! But in life we grow up, don't we? And practising sport at this level made me more mature, formed my character, I became stronger. Staying here doesn't happen frequently".
The idol - "I'd like to be like Elena Vitrichenko, the Ukraine gymnast. She's so elegant, and I'm told to be, too. I met her in 1999, at Europeans im Budapest, where she obviously won. I've a photo where we are together: I approached her and showed my camera, and Elena accepted".
Lucky charm - "I always take with me a peluche duck, given to me by my coach in Velletri [near Rome]. He's in my room, here in Desio. When we leave Desio for competitions, I put him into my bag, and during the competition, he is sitted near the other peluches".
"How do I see myself in 10 years? As a dancer-athlete of KataklÚ, and - why not? - even on TV' "
Friends - "When I talk with my classmates in Milan, they don't understand. They tell me: 'It's a silly thing'. But they haven't got my passion, they wouldn't be able to train 8 hours a day. Instead, I like it a lot".
Teammates - "When I arrived here, I felt myself as a stranger. I was in room with three girls who were already friends, and getting on together wasn't easy. Now, I get on well with Pamela: she's very similar to me, she works hard".
Diet - "I have to lose 2 kilos, now I weight 50 kg. Today, at lunch, I ate rice, a little bit of bread, one apple and two oranges. At dinner, I'll eat two eggs, beans and tomatos. No bread: that's a sacrifice! I like it a lot!". What about winning the gold at Olympics? - "I wouldn't be able even to talk".
"We're as good sisters, there is no envy at all"
Fear - "I'm afraid of not doing my best. So I find courage telling myself: 'Come on, you worked so hard...".
Concentration - "I think about all the sacrifices I've made, I think how it would be stupid losing everything. When I'm on floor, I think about my mates. If I make a mistake, we all make a mistake. And so: 'Come on, Pami, we have to succeed".
Preparations - "The evening before a competition, I prepare the apparatuses, I wash my ball. If my leotard has got a hole or not all the pailletes, I darn it.".
Anxiety - "Before I fall asleep, I see the images of the competition, all the routines, all the mistakes I could make. I'm anxious. So, I call Francesca, sleeping near me: 'Franci, I'm afraid of tomorrow' ".
Best friend - "She lives in Lamezia Terme, where I come from, and she's got a strange name: Damaride. She's 16 just like me and she was my deskmate at school. She sent me the picture of our class. I feel nostalgy. It's strange, when I was there I didn't want to go to school!".
What about winning the gold at Olympics? - "I'd think it's a mistake...".
"I always tell myself: who knows how many girls would like to be where you are!"
Mum - "She's the one I think most during the day. But we're so busy that there isn't a lot of time for feeling nostalgy, as well! But I miss everyone, Dad, my two brothers".
The operation to heart - "I didn't immediately start RSG, before I practised swimming in Rome, my city. When I was 8 I was operated to my heart: I had a little problem. I thought that I couldn't go on with sport. Instead, I'm stronger than before, but I have to control myself each 6 months.".
Gratitude - "I have to be grateful to a person: she's Serenella Colloca, the coach that believed in me and made me join two Europeans with the juniores team, Ginevra and Budapest, and I turned 14 in December. Even if Italy didn't classify at first places, I did pretty good". What about winning the gold at Olympics? - "I really think I'll start crying because of my joy".
"Make-up is important to us like in theatre. But I hate chignons!"
The biggest rinunce - "Food. I'm always on a diet. I was thin, than I started doing silly things, for example not eating even when I didn't need to, or eating a lot of ice-creams and snacks. Now I'm eating almost nothing, just a coffee and a apple a day. It's hard, but I have to lose again 3 or 4 kilos.".
The start - "I started when I was 4 because I saw a gymnastic display in my town, Candelo, province Of Biella. I immediately understood. And I came back home doing RSG exercises!".
The first medal - "Third at Italian Championships, third at International ones in Prague. I was so excited. I had such a smile! I didn't take off my medal for days".
The night before competition - "I take my knickers, always the same, with no labels and seams. Always the same hairpins and brooch... I put everything on my bed. The ritual goes on for the 3 competition days: as soon as I come back to the hotel I wash my knickers. If they're not ready for next morning, I use the hair-dryer".
Boyfriend - "His name is Yuri, he's 19, he's from Biella and attends Scientific High-school. I saw him on S.Valentine's Day. Each day we talk at least one hour by phone and send at least ten sms".
Legs - "I think that in 10 years I'll have to walk on pram, because I'll have my legs hurting and my bones broken!".
What about winning the gold at Olympics? - "F**k!".
"I've got a special life, satisfactions arrived soon"
The privilege - "I feel the privilege of being in the National Team, of living such an experience, of travelling, of learning to live far from home so young: I'll turn 16 on May! Some friends from Giovinazzo tell me they miss me, others 'Why do you do such a thing?!', and others again 'Lucky you!'. It's hard renouncing going out, coming back home late, as girls like me do. But when you have a purpose, you don't feel the burden.".
The coach - "I get on well with Emanuela, I have a very beautiful relationship with her. Strict? Not a lot, just the right way".
The choice - "When I was asked to join the Federal Centre of Desio, my mother told me: 'Do what you like, I ask you neither to remain nor to follow this way. I'll miss you, but if you really want it, just go' ".
School - "I attend Itis, Industrial Institute. Teachers follow us and they do lessons in our hotel. I try to study at evening, before going to bed. My father wants me to work hard, just in the gym as in studying. I do what I can".
Projects - "Maybe I'll become a RSG coach, as well. Now I think so, but who knows?! When I was little I wanted to be a hairdresser!".
What about winning the gold at Olympics? - "I'd shout 'I don't believe it!' ".
Photo Copyright ©Lidia Costantini - articles and photos were taken from the number of April 2002 of "Marie Claire"