Alessandra Cappellotto, Amnesty Sports and Human Rights Award to former cycling champion

He did his best to get some Afghan cyclists fleeing the Taliban to Italy: for this reason, the former professional road cyclist and sports executive Alessandra Cappellotto won the fourth edition of the award “Sport and human rights“, launched in 2019 by Amnesty International and Sport4Society to recognize public actions and gestures of solidarity and commitment to rights.
This was decided by the jury of the award, chaired by Riccardo Cucchi and which includes Luca Corsolini, Alessandra D’Angiò, Barbara Liverotti, Angelo Mangiante, Laura Petruccioli and Jacopo Tognon.

The award ceremony

The award ceremony will take place Sunday June 12 in Veronafrom 11.30 am, in the framework of the XXXVII General Assembly of Amnesty International Italy, at the Hotel San Marco (via Baldassarre Longhena 42).
“We have decided to reward Alessandra Cappellotto for her commitment to women’s cycling and its promotion on even the most difficult roads, from Rwanda to Afghanistan. Thanks to his work, many cyclists have been able to satisfy his passion, finding human and technical attention in Italy. His ‘Path to Equality’ has transcended the boundaries of discrimination. World champion in cycling and in defense of human rights “, declared the president of the jury Riccardo Cucchi.

The emotion of Alessandra Cappellotto

“When I received a phone call from jury president Riccardo Cucchi, I was literally speechless. I even struggled to understand what he was saying to me and I wondered, in fact, I wondered, if the jury was really sure they wanted to reward me, it was the most amazing phone call I’ve ever received in my life. I am honored, happy and grateful, “said Alessandra Cappellotto.
In previous editions, the basketball player Pietro Aradori (2019), Pescara Calcio (2020) and the ex-soccer player Claudio Marchisio (2021) were awarded, in the latter case with mentions to the volleyball player Lara Lugli and the Zebre Rugby Club .

The race

Alessandra Cappellotto was born in Sarcedo on August 27, 1968

Alessandra Cappellotto was born in Sarcedo on August 27, 1968, she started running at the age of seven, pushed by her father. In 1992 he won the Giro del Friuli. In 1993 he finished second in the Giro del Friuli and won the Città di Schio Trophy and in the World Championships in Oslo he won bronze in the team time trial. After a laurel-free 1994, Alessandra Cappellotto won one stage of the 1995 Women’s Giro d’Italia and two stages of the Tour Cycliste Féminin. In 1996, she won another Tour, one at the Giro, one at the Giro del Trentino and one at the Women’s Masters.
1997 is a magical year for Alessandra who wins the second stage of the Giro del Trentino, a stage in Emakumean Bira, the second stage and the general classification in Thüringen Rundfahrt, beating the strong Swiss Barbara Heeb, the Chrono Champenois against Zul ‘ fixed.Zabirova and the Giro di Ciuffena. Especially on October 11, 1997, she became the first woman to win a world title. In 1998 he won the Trophée International and won the eighth stage of the Tour Cycliste. In the year 2000 there was a victory in the tenth stage of the Giro d’Italia, one in the 14th stage of the Tour and the success in the prologue of the Giro della Toscana-Fanini Memorial.
In 2001 Alessandra graduated as the Italian time trial champion the following year, won the Grand Prix International Dottignies against the Belgian Anja Nobus and in 2003 won the title of Italian champion again, this time in the road in front of Alessandra D’Ettorre. . .

The witness

“The award I won can certainly focus on Afghanistan, but I would like it to send a message to athletes: everything that sport gives us – tenacity, heart, love of challenges and knowledge of many people – can be returned by helping others, easily. “She is sure Alessandra Cappellottodel Veneto, a career as a road cyclist, first in Italy to win the world title at the 1997 San Sebastian Championships.

Alessandra Cappellotto crossed the finish line this time because she worked for weeks to bring a group of young cyclists to Italy while Afghanistan fell into the hands of Taliban fighters who soon imposed a regime that banned school and work on women, also imposing the obligation to wear the full veil. And Cappellotto’s commitment is not over: continues to follow athletes in their daily lives, between training, university studies and nostalgia. “The youngest is 16 years old and often asks us about her mother and father who have stayed in Afghanistan,” she says.

“Our main goal is to allow them to rebuild a life here, in the hope that one day they can return to their country.” Bringing these young people to Italy, a group of 14 people including two cyclists and some relatives of the athletes, was a much less simple job but one that Cappellotto managed to complete thanks to the association created a few years ago precisely to support cyclists. . of developing countries. A sensitivity that combines a love of sport with attention to women’s rights and equal opportunities.

Alessandra Cappellotto won the fourth edition of the award
Alessandra Cappellotto won the fourth edition of the “Sport and Human Rights” award.

“When I finished my career, I remember the former world champion– I realized that not even in cycling-advanced countries like Italy, France or Spain was there a single union representing professional cyclists. The Professional Cycling Association, in fact, is for men only. So I founded the Professional Cycling Association – Women“An association of which I am president today.” girls and women belonging to contexts where sometimes the struggle for survival must be put before the passion for sport. “Discovering their stories and their way of continuing cycling despite the difficulties “I became more and more passionate about it”, admits Cappellotto, who created the association to make his work more agile. Path of Equality.

Dozens of Afghan women protest against new restrictions on personal freedoms decided in recent days by the Taliban government
Women protest in Kabul

It was thanks to this network of associations that on March 8, 2021 -160 days before the arrival of the Taliban- Cappellotto is organizing a women’s cycling competition in Kabul with the Afghan Cycling Federation. “It was an important and exciting event for athletes,” said the founder of the Way for Equality, “but after a few weeks the president of the Federation warned me that the situation was becoming worrying.” The guerrillas were gaining ground. Cappellotto decides to make himself “immediately available”, proposing that athletes be safe in Italy.

Women protest in Kabul
Women protest in Kabul

Then, on August 15, the Taliban entered Kabul government buildings. From then until August 31, the day the US troops left the country and the airlift organized by the Draghi government ended, “we worked almost 24 hours a day, mobilizing Italian institutions. and the International Cycling Union (Ciu) The organization Cospe Onlus is also essential (active with development projects until 2018, ed) supported the selection of people to be included in the list. ” “spurious” list of cyclists was inflated with the names of some relatives who were too risky to stay in the country.

Checks on journalists during the women's protest in Kabul
Checks on journalists during the women’s protest in Kabul

All in coordination with the Italian army under the command of the general Leonardo Tricarico.

“The worst time?” Cappellotto disputes. “It simply came to our notice then “refine” the list because there were not enough seats on board. But also when we learned of the attack on the airport, from which our group escaped. The Italian army was crucial in giving us suggestions to protect the girls, who slept outside the airport for days waiting to board the Italian C130. Some have been hit by the Taliban, others threatened. Some did not and returned home. We are still in contact with them, even the refugees who have arrived in Iran and Turkey in the meantime continue to ask us for help. “

That’s why Cappellotto concludes with an appeal to athletes: “For me, doing the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, as well as the hours devoted to grueling workouts have taken away my fear of obstacles and given me the strength to overcome them, as well as allowing me to meet a lot of people. They are all tools that have allowed me to help those most in need, despite living far away from these problems. It worked for me as a cyclist, but it applies to all other disciplines. ” An effort, says the former world champion, who is rewarded with satisfaction: “It was an indescribable joy to enroll our girls in college, or to see them. last Sunday get on your bike and take part in a Gran Fondothinking of what awaits them now in their own country. “

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