Off the beaten track with Italy’s Martina Caironi

The Italian sprinter and long jumper reveals just how acrobatic she can be in her spare time. 02 Apr 2016
Finish of a sprint with three women

Martina Caironi of Italy competes in the women's 100m T42 at the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

ⒸLOC Doha 2015 | Getty Images

When it comes to scaling new heights, look no further than Italy’s Martina Caironi.

The 26-year-old puts an entirely new perspective on the phrase – for it’s not just in track and field that she has made her mark.

In 2015 the Italian set six world records – smashing the 100m T42 world record three times, including a sensational 14.61 sprint to gold at the World Championships in Doha, Qatar – the first time the 15 second barrier had been broken.

She also lowered the 200m T42 world record three times throughout the year – at the IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Switzerland, Italy and Germany – and equalled what was then the long jump T42 world record with a leap of 4.60m in Spain in May.

But what she does away from the track is just as enthralling - 12 months ago Caironi took up a new hobby – aerial silks. She has recently taken part in public performances in Bologna.

Caironi’s new past time involves climbing up lengths of fabric silks suspended from up high, then using the fabric – without a safety harness – to perform various acrobatic skills, wrapping and unwrapping the fabric to adopt different poses and positions in the air.

Like all aerial silks performers, Caironi has had to undergo specialised training to manage the various manoeuvres safely, which can include spectacular drops, as the fabric unravels and the individual spins down to the ground.

The Italian clearly has a head for heights and relishes the opportunity to try something new.

“It was like a dream come true, because I always wished to get involved in some circus acrobatics,” explained Caironi.

“I enjoy the fact that I can do something so artistic and I can do it without any prosthesis. It’s different to athletics apart from the fact that both use the core very much so.

“For me it is very important to have a hobby outside of the track to free the mind and cultivate other skills.”

Caironi certainly hasn’t chosen an easy distraction away from her athletics career.

“We have two-hour lessons: the first hour is for warming up and I mostly do it with my daily prosthesis; the second one is for going up the silks – the moment in which I take off my prosthesis, I’m free and able.

“The first time I tried to do it I was so excited and equally my teacher too, as it was a new challenge for her too. The first time that I could do a frontal 360°, I felt like a butterfly.

“I remember that when the lesson finished and I went outside, the sun was shining and I couldn’t help but smile, even though I was stood out in the street on my own.”

While it may seem a world away from Caironi’s usual track and field exploits, the Italian believes performing aerial silks can only serve to complement her athletics training – just as well, with the Rio Games and the defence of her 100m T42 title – as well as the challenge of long jump glory – all part of this year’s plan.

“This hobby is very physically challenging so I have to manage it into my training schedule,” she explained.

“Aerial silks weren’t so easy to learn and they are still not easy to do, as you need a lot of energy and effort. At the beginning, I used to feel dizzy for staying so long with my head upside down but now it’s OK.

“I can say that it has become a part of my week’s training. This discipline requires a lot of strength, especially in the shoulders and arms. It’s just like flying.”


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