As you well know,
under certain circumstances I don’t particularly like to say anything, it’s too
easy to fall in to rhetoric or the banal.
To you, however, I
have to say something, because having known you first thanks to your ventures,
and then getting to know you in person, means that our friendship is something
which is, and will always remain, something important for me which shaped the
rest of my life.
Like all those from my
generation, I got to know Freediving thanks to your records. I perfectly
remember the first time I saw you: it was at the beginning of the seventies, the
summer of 1974 to be exact, there weren’t blogs or internet, or even colour
television, and I was sitting on the sofa with my father at my grandmother’s
house watching you on TV. I
was immediately curious and started asking my father lots of questions: What’s
this man doing? Why? I never once imagined that around twenty years later Freediving
would have become my great passion, let alone my 'profession'.
That’s exactly how it
was – your records and undertakings helped the public to discover not only Freediving
but a great love of the sea.
Our first meeting was
in Syracuse, your city, in 1996, and I had just set my first World Record to
106m, precisely there in the waters which were so dear to you and which you had
been diving in so many times. From that moment we shared the same passion for the
I always considered
you a maestro, a figure of reference in my sporting and personal history, and I
believe the same goes for most people who have discovered this incredible
discipline over the years.
I admired you and will
continue to remember you not only for your love for our discipline, for the
marine world and for the passion with which you knew how to transmit them to others,
but also as an upright man who never settled for compromises; like construction along the coasts of ‘your’ Sicily and indiscriminate
You were a man who was
proud of his homeland and a strong head of the family.
Two years ago I was a
guest at an event in your Syracuse where we ate together, as other times, and spoke about anything and everything, even if we almost never spoke about our
records, but that was the last time we did so.
The last time I saw
you was last March, you seemed a bit tired, unfortunately time waits for no
man, not even sporting legends, and in that moment a response which you gave a
journalist a few years ago came into my head. She asked you “Enzo, what would
you like at this point in your life?” and you replied “I want something which
you can’t have. To go back to when I was young”. Hearing you say those words I
was slightly surprised, and in that moment I realized that you were not only an
inspiration for all sea lovers, but also a mortal like us.
With Jacques Mayol you
invented a discipline, that of deep Freediving and records, exceeding limits
which were deemed impossible at the time. You challenged those limits and paved
the way which all us ‘young’ freedivers followed. And like Cassius Clay and
Mennea, like Coppi and Bartali and all the sporting greats, you were and will always be a symbol. A legend. And even if it hurts me to say goodbye, it consoles
me to know that legends never die. Ever.