Culture09 Apr 2021

Vallortigara's top five inspiring sports biographies


Italian high jumper Elena Vallortigara (© Getty Images)

Italian high jumper Elena Vallortigara, who has a best of 2.02m, is one of the finest exponents of her craft.

Here the 29-year-old international selects five of her favourite sports autobiographies/biographies and explains what they mean to her.

bookAndre Agassi – Open

The best sports autobiographies I’ve ever read. I have read it many times and it is the most underlined book I have. I usually underline books when I find something useful that I can relate with my story. When I read it, I remember I was hit by the fatigue Andre talks about; I remember the physical pain, but also the figurative fatigue in order to pursue his dreams. Fatigue also leads to knowing himself and finding great things. Since I was enduring a rough time at that point in my life, I was inspired by his capability to rise again after each setback.

bookMauro Berruto – Capolavori

I love volleyball, my father played and coached the sport and I spent a lot of time with him watching the sport as a child. I also played for a short period and I am fascinated by the team sport dynamic. Mauro was coach of the Italian volleyball team that won bronze at the London 2012 Olympics. I loved reading a book from a coach/manager perspective. I was inspired by his winning mentality, his commitment and the ability to frame people and situations in order to make the right decision at the right moment. I admire how he engineered a team culture and his motivational speeches were also very inspirational.

bookJames Kerr – Legacy

This book about the All Blacks (the New Zealand rugby team) was recommended to me by a friend. I didn’t have much knowledge of the subject but I’ve been intrigued by the All Blacks and that sense of alliance that they possess – which is unique to rugby and much of the sporting world. After reading this book I became inspired by the philosophy of the team and the life lessons learned in their journey to become better more successful people.

bookNovak Djokovic – Serve to Win

I like playing and watching tennis. Reading books from legends such as Agassi and Djokovic makes me have even more respect for their accomplishments because I now understand what difficult sport tennis is. Novak talks extensively about how changing his diet gave him performance benefits. I too went through a period when I was gluten sensitive and I found the book useful for this reason. He also talks about kinesiology. I also regularly went to a kinesiologist mainly to test for food intolerances, so it was interesting to learn that Djokovic also tapped into this kind of support. He doesn’t talk a lot about his sport or his private life, but I learned the importance, as an athlete, of listening to my body and that we are all different with different needs.

bookNiccolo Campriani – Remember to Forget the Fear

Campriani is an Olympic rifle shooting champion. He writes about fear of failure, of disappointing himself and others, how to deal with his identity and how this fear led to a mental block and how he overcame it. By reading this book, I learned the importance of one’s own roots of happiness and to be able to express yourself to the maximum as an athlete. I lived his feelings and his words through myself. It was a very inspiring story. 


Steve Landells for World Athletics