Phoenix and lioness Vanessa Ferrari on the world of gymnastics

Published on 13 May 2022

By Catiana Rettenberger


Vanessa Ferrari has been a constant in European gymnastics for almost two decades. The Italian gymnast became the world all-around champion in 2006, and has since won four European championship titles, crowning her career with silver on floor at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Nevertheless, the lioness isn’t done yet. We talked to Ferrari in an exclusive interview to get insight into her sport career and European gymnastics.

Vanessa Ferrari of Italy competes on floor in the Women's Floor Exercise Final at the Gymnastics on day ten of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

From all the memories you have created throughout your career, which one is your favourite and why?

It is difficult to define what my best memory is, certainly the best memories are linked to my greatest successes. The victory at the World Championships in 2006 and the recent medal in Tokyo. They are the most significant medals for me.

Can you describe your passion for the sport of gymnastics?

Gymnastics is my whole life, I fell in love with this sport seeing a competition on TV when I was a child and from that moment I said to my mother, I want to do gymnastics.

You have been given many nicknames over the years; can you tell us about them?

In my history I have been given many nicknames. The first nickname I was given, when I was still very young, is the butterfly because I moved lightly and seemed to fly. After the Mediterranean Games in Almeria in 2005 I was called the cannibal because I had won five gold medals and one silver, but I was angry because I wanted six gold medals. Then I had so many problems and I was called the phoenix because it was able to resurrect after them. I ended up the lioness before Tokyo, because I was hungry for victory, and for the tenacity it took me to pursue this result.

To some extent the new nicknames have arrived with a new era and returns to the sport. What gave you the strength to continue?

The strength to continue comes from the desire to pursue my dreams. When I pursue a dream, I set myself a goal, I do everything to pursue it.

You won the all-round title at the World Championships in 2006 and have secured your first Olympic medal in Tokyo in 2021, would you say the work and all comebacks were worth it?

I am fully convinced that the work, sooner or later, pays off, I think I could not have made better choices than the ones I did.


What would you say to your 2006 self now if you could talk to her?

If I could, I would tell myself to be careful of injuries, try to manage these problems better.

You are coming back from injury at the moment. Will you be back in time for the European Championships Munich 2022?

Unfortunately, due to tendon problems I had to undergo a new surgery and for this I will not be able to be present at the European Championships in Munich, because the rehabilitation process will prevent me from being there.

Which is a pity as the European Championships Munich 2022 will not only host the European Artistic Gymnastics Championships, but nine Olympic sports on eleven competition days. Besides gymnastics the Bavarian capitol will welcome athletics, beach volleyball, canoe sprint, cycling, rowing, sport climbing, table tennis and triathlon athletes.

Italian gymnast Vanessa Ferrari competes in a qualifying round of the balance beam event at the European Women's Artistic Gymnastics Championships in 2015.

Italy fortunately has a new generation of top-notch athletes, who grew up watching you. The young women’s team stepped up to take bronze at the 2019 World Championships in Stuttgart (I was there, and they are just "wow"!). What do you see in the future of Italian gymnastics?

Italian gymnastics is constantly developing, the new generations are growing, and the movement is getting better and better. I think it's very nice because when I was little I trained in difficult conditions, now fortunately the structures are better, and this helps everyone to grow better.

How do you perceive Europe’s stand as a whole on the world stage?

I think that the European championships are usually of an excellent level, in the world panorama.

Which women have a chance to win gold in the AA (all-around) and specifically on floor in Munich?

I can't say for sure who will have the chance to win the all-around, there are also new young gymnasts of excellent level, whom I don't know. I think the competition will be a lot of fun. Regarding the floor, it could still be Jessica Gadirova, who won the last time and made it to the final at the Olympics. But gymnastics is not obvious, so we will see based on the gymnasts who will participate and especially based on their state of form, what will happen.

Munich 2022

Gadirova certainly is a contender for a medal at this year’s European championships. The 17-year-old won bronze on floor at the Tokyo Olympics and secured silver on vault besides her European floor title in 2021 as well. As Ferrari sadly won’t be back in time to compete in August her compatriot Martina Maggio, fourth on floor at the last European championships, has a chance to bring back a medal for Italy in Ferrari’s stead. Though Mélanie de Jesus dos Santos, the winner of the first instalment of the European Championships in Glasgow in 2018, has her eyes set on gold too.

Gadirova and Maggio have just started their careers as seniors, but they have been part of the international scene at junior level beforehand. And as luck would have it Munich will stage the junior European championships as well, giving a preview of what is to come in the years ahead.

The continental championships will be held at the historic Olympiahalle, where the likes of Olga Korbut and Karin Janz soared way back at the summer Olympic Games in 1972. And who knows what stories will be told about 2022 in the future?


Munich 2022European ChampionshipsGymnastics