“Precision is the most important value in shooting. It seems like Luca is lacking it as he is not punctual.” It is a hot mid-August Saturday afternoon in Pietrasanta, an artistic town in Versilia, Northern Tuscany. The sun is shining over the six bronze statues made by Colombian artist Fernando Botero, placed in central Piazza del Duomo. If you walk just outside the historic centre you go along a few typical narrow streets, where villas are surrounded by fields and prattle is the only noise you can hear. It is here that the local rifle range stands.
It is a really special day for Pietrasanta-originated shooters. They are going to celebrate local hero Luca Tesconi, 30, silver-medallist at the London Games in men’s 10 metre air pistol. Everything is ready in the small but homely garden past the entrance of the venue. Italian flags are used as tablecloths on which plates full of appetizers and pastries are tempting the participants.
Tesconi is expected to come around 6pm, when the sun is still high in the sky and the temperature is over 30 degrees. All the old patrons of the shooting sports club are talking to Mauro Tesconi, Luca’s father. He used to be a shooter, too. It was him to convince his son to abandon tennis at the age of 17 and to hold a gun rather than a racket.
“It’s hard to describe my feelings. Nobody expected this medal to come” he says. He could not personally attend the final, as expressively requested by his son. “That’s not a problem, I understand him”, he replies. “Take Chinese Pang Wei, the gold medal holder – he was second at the end of the qualification round in London, but he failed to step up the podium. Concentration is fundamental in shooting; even a fly buzzing could be a distraction.”
As aforementioned, precision is another key element. Never mind if Luca arrives four minutes past 6pm. Today is his day and everything can be forgiven to him. He walks past the main entrance cheered by a burst of applause just for him.
Tesconi looks like a boy who is just back from a long journey and has plenty of gifts for his close friends. He opens a bag from which he draws out gadgets of the Olympics – a pennant, a poster with signatures of the Italy national shooting team and the Union Jack with the London Games logo. Then, it’s time to display the most remarkable souvenir, the silver medal.
Paolo Bindi is the president of the local section of the national shooting federation. He saw young Luca accessing the venue accompanied with his father. “I still remember the day he came. His father and I gave him many tips and now he has surpassed us”, Bindi maintains.
“I watched the final here at the range. I couldn’t seat all the time, I was walking in and out the room due to the tension”, he recalls. “I won several national titles as a shooter, but the medal won by Luca is unarguably my most emotional moment. I’m still touched in telling it.” His moistened eyes and his slightly cracked voice confirm it.
As you would expect in a typical celebration party, it’s time to take some pictures, eat all those tasty appetizers and, obviously, to drink a toast in honour of Luca. Bindi has a present for him, on behalf of the entire local section of the shooting federation. It is a necklace with a small gold medal, in memory of his extraordinary deeds in London.
Luca calmly puts it around his neck. You may assume he would like to swap this gold medal with another one, that from the Olympics. But he has absolutely no regrets for his silver. Indeed, he is still thrilled. “I was so tense that I could not sleep for six nights before the day of the game”, he tells his friends who are surrounding him. “When I was back in Pietrasanta, I was stopped by many people in the streets. It was amazing to live again my final through their accounts and to realise they struggled and finally rejoiced for me.”
Tesconi was the first athlete to win a medal for Italy in London. “Yes, probably this will be the fondest memory of the London Games. I think it won’t happen again to be the first medallist for my country.”
He is also the first shooter from Versilia to step up the Olympic podium after the unfruitful attempts by Sem De Ranieri in the 1920s and Roberto Vannozzi in 1984. Moreover, he magnificently represented Pardini Armi, a Versilia-based firm specialised in producing weapons. “I spoke to Giampiero Pardini, who established the company in 1975 and still runs it”, Luca maintains. “He is very happy. They supplied many athletes in the 25 metre pistol but were hoping to win a medal also in the 10 metre.”
Luca can be considered one exception for Pardini Armi, which has been providing Olympic teams with weapons since Moscow 1980. The company deals with foreign countries rather than Italian shooters. Their trade over the past four years is a consequence of the global crisis, as their exports in America have fallen whilst they boast a strong presence in China, India and South Korea.
“I was their only hope in the 10 metre competition. Plus, I’m from Versilia. He feels particularly proud of this medal.”
The great achievement in London has made Luca a popular figure in Pietrasanta, for he has been invited to a football match in aid of charity and to a local Light Night. Training is still his priority, tough. “I’ll participate in the national title finals in Milan in late September, then I’ll fly to Bangkok for the World Championships.”
What about a break? “I’ll have it once the competitions are finished. I still have to choose the destination, but it’ll be a quiet place, away from crowds and noises.”
Yes, silence is everything a shooter needs.