It is not enough to win, nor deliver great performances, nor break records. What distinguishes a sports hero, and what accomplishments set him or her apart from others? Why does everyone remember the name of Dorando Pietri, a baker who was denied victory in the 1908 Olympic marathon, whereas nobody remembers the same event’s gold medallist? Sports heroes manage to be a part of people’s everyday lives, feed the collective consciousness and evolve into enduring myths. That means that they need an adoring public and somebody willing to commemorate their feats. The author guides the reader among many sports tales, drawn from the present and the past, highlighting memorable deeds – triumphs, failures, extraordinary efforts, breakdowns, comebacks, records, passions – carried out by the likes of Owens, Bikila, Coppi, Pantani, Senna, Nuvolari, Muhammad Ali and many others. (By the way, the forgotten winner of the 1908 marathon was Johnny Hayes!)
Daniele Marchesini formerly taught Contemporary History at the University of Parma.
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