martedì 8 settembre 2009

Swim upstream

It' s not easy to live in Italy, with a physical disability: The limitations and problems connected with our condition are often complicated by obstacles as a result of a social context which is culturally and psychologically behind the times with regard to integration. The minimum attention given to someone who occupies a parking space reserved for the disabled, or those who block the access ramp to the pavement or despite the laws, and all those who haven’t modified lifts or staircases which make access impossible for wheelchairs equates to a significant limitation of freedom and a serious blow to the dignity of people who already have to cope with huge problems.
I was thinking of all this when I began to plan for my marathon swims: the “Giro d’Italia” and the “Giro d’Europa”. At the age of 14 I had a leg amputated due to an osteosarcoma. I think I have managed quite well – I got through the periods of convalescence with the help of doctors and intelligent and sensitive physiotherapists, I learned to walk with early prostheses, progressing through the years with the incessant scientific and tecnological research in this field.
Today the resulting artificial limbs are incredibly advanced. New electronic prostheses allow a quality of life which was unimaginable until a few years ago, reducing considerably problems connected with posture or incorrect deambulation. Unfortunately, in Italy, unlike other european counries, these instruments are not distributed under the national health service, unless you follow an interminable and complicated bureaucratic process. The system which governs the provision of prostheses in Italy hasen’t been updated since 1992 and so doesn’t take into consideration the fundamental progress obtained through research during the past 17 years.
It’s a case of cultural shortsightedness from a country like Italy which, as far as legislation goes, has very advanced laws and above all, at the level of local institutions often pays a great deal of attention to the integration of and assistence for the disabled.
This is where my “battle” started, and it’s taken me around all of Italy and Europe, allowing me to live a unique and unrepeatable experience, especially from a human point of view. I confess that for a long time, I had been part of that solid group of lazy citizens, capable only of complaining. I realized this when during these past years I met extraordinary people, from Calabria to Copenhagen and Malmo, who have always worked with dedication, passion and competence for the integration of disabled people, through sport. From them I learned a vital lesson, and thanks to them I feel able to contribute to making the world a better place, a world without barriers where each individual can be evaluated on the basis of his or her own potential.
On 1st September the penultimate leg of my journey began, from Copenhagen to Malmo. I can’t say it was my best trial. The currents were too strong and there were very high waves - adverse conditions which in short obliged the organizers to stop me after nine hours of swimming and four miles from the finish line (from a total of 18). It was one of the most arduous trials I have ever experienced from a physical point of view. Soon after I started, the sea turned against me, obliging me to swim against a strong current and consequently barely moving forward. It was hard also for Adolfo, tired and moved to tears in the face of my difficulties. I’d be lying if I said I’m not disappointed. But I keep in mind the real objective of what I’m doing and, in this sense, it was a real success. Both in Copenhagen an in Malmo, the welcome was incredibly warm and affectionate, with a great deal of attention from the media and I hope that all this can help to achieve the objective which I have set myself and for which many of us are now fighting.
My sincere thanks for the organization and warm welcome go to Jan Bengtsson and all the HISO, Carina Nilsson and the City of Malmo, Angelo Tajani for her dedication, Carsten Mortensen and all the DHIF, the counsellor for Culture of Copenhagen together with all the citizens of Copenhagen Pia Allerslev and Grazia Mirabelli and all the Comites.
Sincere thanks also to Dr. Clara Bencivenga, Director of the Institute of Italian Culture and Dr. Pierluigi Gentile, First Counsellor of the Italian Embassy in Copenhagen.
Finally, I must thank affectionatly the newspapers and television in Denmark and Sweden for having illuminated and transmitted to the whole world the “Giro d’Europa a nuoto”.

Next year, I promise, I’ll try again!!!!!

Thanks for everything
Salvatore Cimmino.

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