Assunta Legnante: an inspiration to athletes of all abilities | 15.05.2012
|Italy's Assunta Legnante is set to make history as the first
European athlete to compete at both the Olympic and
Her performance, in a series which also included an effort of 13.24m, added more than a metre to the former record of 11.84m.
It may be a long way short of her Italian record of 19.20m set back in 2002 but Legnante, who celebrated her 34rd birthday on Monday, is now clearly a force to be reckoned with in Paralympic athletics and has quickly become an inspiration to athletes of all abilities.
After competing at the 2008 Olympic Games, she will now be going to the Paralympic Games in London this summer with the objective of achieving what she couldn't do in Beijing and return home with a medal, preferably one of a golden hue to be hung alongside the one she won in Birmingham five years ago.
She is also set to make history as no European athlete has ever competed at both the Olympics and Paralympic Games.
Legnante, who also won bronze medals early in her career at the European Athletics Junior Championships and European Athletics U23 Championships as well as being a two-time World Championships finalist, was born with congenital glaucoma in both eyes.
"Using lenses, I always saw better with my right eye but saw very little with my left," she reflected in an interview with the Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport last week.
However, in August 2009, she suddenly lost nearly all of her remaining sight. "I was in a car and I was going to a meeting in Padua. At one point, I realised I couldn't see anything with my right eye, the better one. Luckily, I wasn't driving".
In November last year, there was another shock when she got the news that the retina of her left eye had deteriorated severely. "I had an operation to remove the cataract on 9 March but it was no good. However, I'm positive by nature, and sport has helped me in this. I accepted the situation almost immediately. I said to myself, 'It's happened but worse things happen.'"
"Now, I can perceive light in my left eye but nothing more."
Legnante is now getting to grips with the different demands of being a blind shot putter.
"I don't know what to expect, there's a lot going on in my head but I know what I can do. I started training again two weeks ago, without forcing myself and I can throw between 12.50 and 13.50 from standing. With movement, I should improve further," she added, showing the competitive spirit which has been her trademark throughout her career.