28 March 2022
28 March 2022
On the outskirts of Cortina d'Ampezzo there is a small, super tidy metalworking shop that is home to one of Italy's greatest bobsleigh connoisseurs: Diego Menardi. Gentle, cunning eyes introduce a face marked by experience, travel and the cold. Hands marked by years, work and dirty with experience. He has lived with bobsleigh since the age of 16 and embodies the passion of an area that has fallen in love with this magnificent sport since the early 20th century. Dry in his expressions, polite in his gestures, Diego welcomed us, explained and told us about Cortina d'Ampezzo, the Queen of the Dolomites.
Well, practically forever. I started in 1976 in a bobsleigh factory here in Cortina. I was 16 years old and I haven't stopped since.
I can count the ones I built when I started working for the teams: since 1985 I have built over 50.
It's hard to say exactly because there are many different professionals working together under the guidance of one person. A 1-man bobsleigh designed for the athlete's training requires more or less 45 days of work, whereas the more you move towards means to be used in international competitions, the more the days increase.
First of all, it has to be said that the bobsleigh has always been an institution in Cortina and for the people of Cortina and many have been inspired by it. Then I can't deny that I didn’t have a great desire to study and when I stopped going to school I thought that the best place to go and work was in a factory where bobsleighs were made.
I wouldn't know. Because of a motorbike accident, which scarred my life, I was never able to access the bobsleigher’s course and, ironically, I was never able to experience the sport from a competitive standpoint. However, I recovered as a mechanic.
Yes. I was selected by the Canadians from 1985 to 1995.
I don’t know. At the time, the Canadians called me. And I wanted to travel and have a different experience. I thought it was the best solution.
The most complex part is the frame with the mechanical components and their position. Everything has to be thought out and imagined for a sport whose speed relies on the force of gravity and the ability of the vehicle to come out of every bend with a very good spin.
Nowadays, I think an athlete makes up for more than 70% of the final result with his or her own drive. The rest is divided equally between the frame, the skates and the aerodynamics.
A 4-man bobsleigh can reach up to 160 km/h.
Every bobsleigh is always born out of special needs. When you work at a high level, you pay the utmost attention to every detail. In particular, when you're building a bobsleigh for teams that are going to be involved in international competitions, you listen a lot to the different needs of the bobsleigher, which obviously vary depending on the athlete.
Of course I do! It was born in 1948 as an independent club. Before that it was part of the ice sports, although later, at least in Italy, bobsleighing was not included in the Ice Sports Federation. In the rest of the world, bobsleighing often has its own Federation.
First of all, because there has been a track in Cortina since 1928, and therefore a great tradition born of the possibility of experimenting, training and letting the best athletes in circulation compete.
Eugenio has always been a great champion who also on a human level has always shown great sensitivity and education. And then he was gifted with an uncommon fair play. Everyone knows the story of the "bolt of Innsbruck" with which he basically handed over to the English not only the bolt needed to compete, but also the gold medal victory. But when he was criticised for the gesture, he replied that the British had not won because he had lent them his bolt. They had won because they had gone faster than the others.
Absolutely. For Eugenio, competition and true victory were always achieved by competing against the best and never against those who were damaged by bad luck. I think this is the best example that a young person can discover when reading the history of this great Italian athlete.
Of course I do! Flavio Menardi is a very good young para-athlete who has just started competing in World Cups and who, in the future, I hope will be able to make it to the Paralympics in 2026, perhaps as a demonstration sport.
7: from Calgari 1988 to Vancouver 2010. Some as a mechanic, others as a judge. Today, after many, many races spent observing, correcting, and fixing, I realise that I can recognise every single imperfection in the bobsleigh and every single error caused by the bobsleigher
For at least three different reasons: first of all because I am a great fan and a great supporter of this magnificent sport. Secondly, because I am the vice-president of the Cortina Bob Club and the fact that I continue to build more and more modern and avant-garde bobsleighs is a sense of responsibility. And finally, to continue to bring to life the passion and fun that bobsleigh can give to the public.
The Olympics and Paralympics are an enormous opportunity for Cortina: both from a social standpoint and also from an economic and reputational one. Our area lives mainly on tourism and an event of this kind will certainly bring prosperity through the relaunch of the economy and the publicity that will enhance an area whose roots lie above all else in tourism. Suffice it to say that Cortina has enjoyed incredible notoriety also and above all thanks to the 56th Games.
The panorama! The Dolomites and the valley that welcome anyone arriving in Cortina are unparalleled. A breath-taking sight that is a delight for the eyes and soul.
Not at the moment. There's a young boy who comes to work with me in the summer - once school has ended - and who is gradually becoming interested in this job and on whom, who knows, we may be able to rely on in the future. But of course everything depends on him. Nothing can be forced.
I'd show him the Olympic ski jump, which will be renovated, and the new bobsleigh run. Then I'd take him to admire the town from above, from one of our many mountain huts at high altitude, where I'd let him taste casunziei, a typical Ampezzo ravioli filled with red beetroot.
I don't know. We'll see. I certainly won't be in the stands as a spectator, but in support of the organisation.