The sport teaches us to be warriors in life as well as in the arena….

The Italian team for Friday’s Intesa Sanpaolo Nations Cup was revealed this afternoon in the beautiful setting of the Museum of Modern Art, close to the Villa Borghese public park where the 87th edition of CSIO Rome 2019 gets underway at the world-famous Piazza di Siena tomorrow morning (Thursday 23 May).

The flags of 14 nations – Australia, Belgium, Chinese Taipei, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Switzerland and USA – are already blowing in the breeze around arguably the most beautiful, treasured and historic arena on the world circuit. Restored to a glorious grass surface for last year’s show it is looking magnificent, and Italian hopes are high after the dramatic double in 2018 when, for the second year in succession, the hosts won the Nations Cup title and then Lorenzo de Luca scooped the Grand Prix title to put the icing on the cake.

It is always a matter of great pride to be selected for your country on home ground, and 32-year-old de Luca, who was on the winning team in 2017, and 39-year old Luca Marziani who was a member of last year’s winning side, were named for Friday’s Nations Cup contest by team coach, Duccio Bartalucci, today. Completing the Italian line-up will be 37-year-old Riccardo Pisani and 42-year-old Lucia Le Jeune Vizzini and they will be taking on eight other nations when the action gets underway at 14.30 local time

Duccio Bartalucci had an extra surprise to add to today’s announcement, putting this week’s Italian effort into a whole new perspective. “A few days ago I was thinking I would be very far away from here”, said the former top rider who in more recent years has concentrated his energy into training and sports management for the Italian National Federation.

“I had an operation for prostate cancer” he revealed, “and I thank God to be here.  Normally for this kind of operation, after five days you go home. Instead I had a lot of complications, and I was more than three weeks in hospital in Milan where I was visited also by Roberto Arioldi and Bruno Chimirri.

The sport teaches us to be warriors in life, as well as in the arena. It was for me an important goal to be here at Piazza di Siena, and now I’m here and I’m ready to do this important job” Duccio said, before the assembled journalists and riders burst into a spontaneous round of applause.