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Forza Azzurri: 40 facts about Italy’s international archery squad

27 January 2015
Lausanne (SUI)
How much do you know about the top international archers on and off the shooting field? Country by country, we’ll find the facts and figures worth hearing. This time: Italy…

Feature by World Archery Reporter Rebecca RABOZZI.

1) The Italian recurve men’s team won the gold medal at London 2012, beating Team USA 219-218 when recurve team matches were decided by a straight 24-arrow score.

2) Michele FRANGILLI shot the last arrow in that final match. It was a 10 liner and he swears he knew the arrow would hit the 10-ring long before it actually did!

3) Marco GALIAZZO has three Olympic medals: He got two golds (individual at Athens 2004, team at London 2012) and one silver (team at Beijing 2008).

4) Marco was also the first Italian archer to ever win a gold medal at the Olympic Games.

5) Michele FRANGILLI won three medals in the team events at the Olympics Games: first he got a bronze (Atlanta 1996, with Matteo BISIANI and Andrea PARENTI), then a silver (Sydney 2000, with Matteo BISIANI and Ilario DI BUO) and finally a gold medal (London 2012, with Mauro NESPOLI and Marco GALIAZZO).

6) Two big personal records of Natalia VALEEVA: she is a six-time Olympian and mother of three children. She represented the Unified Team at the Olympic Games of Barcelona 1992 (she won individual and team bronze medals), Moldova at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 – then Italy at Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

7) In Summer 2012, just a few days before going to London, Natalia was invited to the premiere of the movie Brave. She had so much fun with her children, wearing curly red wigs for a photoshoot and answering journalists’ questions.

8) Marco GALIAZZO was born on 7 May 1983, exactly 150 years after the birth of the famous German composer Johannes BRAHMS. Mauro NESPOLI, born on 22 November 197, shares the same day of birth with another famous German musician, Wilhelm Friedemann BACH (22 November 1710).

9) Another coincidence – The name of Mauro’s father is Paolo, like the famous astronaut Paolo NESPOLI. Mauro used to tell the Italian press his dad was sinking into space, but really he was spacing sinks. (NESPOLI senior is a plumber.)

10) At Beijing 2008, Mauro shot one of the lightest bows in weight (FiberBow 5.99), but at London 2012 he shot the heaviest bow in draw weight (59 pounds).

11) When an archer shoots a bad arrow it is commonly called Nespolata – “Nespoli’s way” –in Italy. It is named after Mauro’s last arrow during the men’s team final against South Korea at Beijing 2008, when he shot a 7 and the Italians lost the match.

12) Some years later, to rehabilitate his name’s reputation, Mauro launched “The Nesp” pose. He had fun performing it on and off the archery field!


Une photo publiée par @the_nesp le Avril 2, 2014 at 6:25 PDT


Une photo publiée par @the_nesp le Juin 15, 2014 at 9:33 PDT

13) Quick fact (not to be superstitious about the number) – Each of the three Italian male Olympic Stars begins with “M”? Marco, Mauro and Michele all aim for “X”, though!

14) Not only did Marco GALIAZZO, Mauro NESPOLI and Michele FRANGILLI choose archery to make their living, they chose it also for… loving! They fell in love with three beautiful archers (Gloria, Francesca and Stefania) and – what’s more – those women are also their archery coaches. Cupid’s arrows hit the right spot!

15) Marco got married on 25 October 2014. His wife said:  “To choose the date of the wedding, we had to match our archery agendas. We had to check both the Italian and the international calendar to choose the right day for both of us!” For the honeymoon they picked Las Vegas in February 2015, right around the Indoor Archery World Cup Final.

16) Another well-known archery couple in Italy are Sergio PAGNI and Pia Carmen LIONETTI, who got married in 2012.

17) Sergio and Pia are both in the Italian national team, and despite the difference in bows (he shoots compound, she shoots recurve) they train together.


Last arrows in the sunset with the Love of my life! #training is so sweet! #archeryforlife #worldarchery

Une photo publiée par Pagni Sergio (@sergiopagni) le Août 6, 2013 at 12:00 PDT

18) Pia’s famous quote from Beijing 2008 after losing in the women's team quarterfinal: “Korea improved their results so much. I think they come from another planet”. That far away?

19) Mauro’s first picture on Instagram was dedicated to his London 2012 gold medal: “Prima prova instagram.. ;)” (Meaning: first try on Instagram)

20) Marcella TONIOLI also chose an archery win as the subject of her first picture on Instagram: “Just won the gold in mixed team here in Antalia!!! The first gold medal in a world cup stage!!! Happy =D”

21) Not only are Marcella TONIOLI and Sergio PAGNI the only compound mixed team to have won a World Championship title, but they have done it twice: in Turin 2011 and in Belek 2013.


Yeah!!! Won the second mixed team world title in a row!!! So happy for this!!! Thanks to @sergiopagni for this gold medal and thanks to all for making this possible!!! #FraraMixTeam #WAC2013 #Archery #WorldArchery #GetSeriousGetHoyt #TeamE #EliVanes #Beiter #GenX10 #Protour #CustomMadeWraps #catchingfire #hoytarchery #Bazinga #Gold #AlwaysOnTop #sergiopagni

Une photo publiée par Marcella Tonioli (@marcy0586) le Oct. 5, 2013 at 7:30 PDT

22) Not everybody knows that they call themselves the “Frara Mixed Team” – ‘Frara’ being the dialect name of the city of Ferrara, where both Marcella and Sergio’s mothers were born.

23) Marcella has many tattoos, some of them about archery. Like the one on her elbow: instead of the too-common spider web, she chose to get an entire archery target complete with arrows hitting the middle (on her arm one arrow is still flying).

24) There’s a tattoo on her chest, too: “When one thing is in your heart, you get a tattoo with that... and where you do it?!? On your heart!!! Because Archery is not just a’s my life style!!!”

25) She got the tattoo with the arrow in 2011 to celebrate the world title won in Turin. In 2013 she added the second date to remember Belek’s championship too.

26) One of the most famous among Marcella’s tattoos is surely the “TSFB” which means to hold tight. And so she does, in every situation, no matter if the difficulties are on the archery field or in her everyday life. These four letters are the initials of a typical saying used by the Italian singer Luciano LIGABUE, of which Marcella is a wild-eyed fan.

27) Marcella not only holds the actual world record for the compound mixed team (158 points, shot with Sergio PAGNI in Turin), but also some Italian records. In August 2014 she shot three records in a row: 1401 points and soon after 1404 points for the 1440 round, 2805 for the double 1440 round – and with 349 points she shot the 70m record for compound women.

Post by Marcella Tonioli.

28) Since 2012, Marcella holds the compound women Italian national 25-metre Indoor record with 580 points and recently she has also broken the Italian 18m Indoor record: on 9 November 2014 she scored 589 points, three points above the previous mark, held for seven years by the former world champion Eugenia SALVI.

29) In Team Italy there is another compound women's record holder – Anastasia ANASTASIO holds the Italian record in the 50m Round with 701 points, shot in 2012 during the Italian national championships. The 25-metre indoor world record of 578 points is also still hers for the category compound junior women. She shot it back in 2008.

30) Compound men lack for nothing! Especially Sergio PAGNI, who has broken several Italian records: 594 points in the 25m Indoor in 2008, 1406 points in the 1440 Round in 2009 and 714 points in the 50m Round, shot at Wroclaw 2013 Archery World Cup Stage 4.

31) Natalia VALEEVA holds almost every recurve women’s Italian records, except two: Double 1440 Round and 900 Round (3 x 30 arrows). What’s interesting is that she has never competed in these kinds of competitions: if she did, she would probably add them to her haul…

32) The European record for the 1440 round is set at 1369 points, for recurve men and recurve women. Both records are held by Italians: Natalia VALEEVA shot it in 2007, and Mauro NESPOLI – seven years later – in summer 2014. (Picture © Facebook.)

33) Among the Italian recurve men, Michele FRANGILLI holds most of the national records. His 598 points 18m Indoor record seems unbreakable: he’s been the record holder for 13 years now!

34) What’s more, Michele holds two indoor world records that are still unbeaten – 597 points shot in Nimes in 2001 at 18m and 599 points shot at 25m in 2002 in Gallarate, his city of birth.

34) Last Summer Federico PAGNONI made his debut with the Italian national team. Shooting together with Sergio PAGNI and Luigi DRAGONI in the compound men’s team, he took home a bronze medal at the European Outdoor Championships in Armenia. Team Italy and Team GB tied at 229-229, but the Italians won the tiebreaker with a thrilling perfect score: 10-10-10 (30) to the Brits’ 29.

35) After his first international tournament (and first medal), in the Italian press Federico was called “The Robin Hood with a human face”, referring to his humble spirit and his kindness. 

36) At Turin 2011 the recurve women’s team of Natalia VALEEVA, Jessica TOMASI and Guendalina SARTORI won the World Championships, shooting 210-207 against Team India. It was Italy’s first gold medal in 12 years.

37) In 2011 Jessica TOMASI was protagonist of the Italian TV show “Le iene” (Hyenas): she, who has twenty-twenty vision, went undercover wearing a hidden camera and pretended to need a pair of glasses. As a real “hyena”, she unveiled the unfair behaviour of an optician, who ordered glasses and contact lenses without any reason!

38) At the 2013 Mediterranean Games in Mersin Team Italy won six medals, four of those shooting one against the other. Michele FRANGILLI got the silver beating Alberto ZAGAMI 7-3 in the men’s individual; then together with Mauro NESPOLI they won another bronze as a team. In the women’s individual Guendalina SARTORI beat Natalia VALEEVA 7-3 and won the gold medal. And they got another gold together with Claudia MANDIA in the women’s team final.

39) People should remember the young Gloria FILIPPI, who won a gold medal in the mixed team event at the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics in Singapore paired with the Belarussian Anton KAROUKIN. However not everybody saw her coach Stefano CARRER shaving his hair off to celebrate the victory.

40) Archery and fair play: opponents may soon become best mates! Did you know that in the second round at Athens 2004, Ilario DI BUO beat Wietse VAN ALTEN (164-160)? Now they are both coaches of the Italian national team, training Marco GALIAZZO who, by the way, beat Ilario in the third round at those same Olympics.

Learn more about World Archery’s athletes.