19-07-2021 by Freddie del Curatolo
Kenya's Olympic swimming in Tokyo will have Italian spirit, will and pride, together with the young muscles, 'gills' and passion of a boy from Mombasa.
Yes, because the only swimmer in the Kenyan men's team who has qualified for the 2021 Olympics, which will start in a few days in Japan, is called Danilo Rosafio and has clear Italian origins on his father's side, the businessman Antonio 'Tony' Rosafio, despite having a Kenyan mother and being born and raised in the most important maritime city in the African country.
In just under a month he will be 20 years old and is an athlete in continuous improvement. Sixty-ninth fastest swimmer at the world championships in China in the 100 freestyle, he has already improved that time by fifty hundredths, almost touching the 52-second mark.
Malindikenya.net caught up with him in Loughborough, Great Britain, where he attends university and trains.
Although he begins with a 'Ciao', Danny (as he has always been called) admits that he would prefer to converse in English, because his Italian is not so fluent.
"But the fact that I don't speak Italian well," says the young African swimming hopeful, "doesn't mean that I don't feel deeply connected to Italy and that I'm proud to be half Italian and half Kenyan.
Rosafio is bursting with joy for the adventure that in a few days will take him to the pools of the Far East for the most prestigious sporting competition in the world.
I'm very excited and full of excitement," Danilo reveals. "I've worked very hard over the years to dream of goals of this magnitude. I started swimming when I was 4 years old, when my father threw me into the pool of our house in Mombasa and taught me how to stay afloat and move. From then on I never stopped and at 15 I decided to become a professional. Today I train up to 18 hours a week and am very focused on my career.
His father is not the only link with Italy, a small land of great sportsmen and women, which is still celebrating the victory of the European Football Championships but has been celebrating incredible swimmers such as Francesca Pellegrini at international level for years.
"Surely being Italian-Kenyan helps me, I follow and admire the swimmers of my second homeland that I will meet in Japan as Fede Burdi (Federico Burdisso ndr), Nicolò (Martinenghi) and Greg Paltrinieri, even if my idol, the swimmer who inspires me is the American Cody Miller, I would like to become like him".
Danilo Rosafio will compete in the 50 and 100 metres freestyle, the only Kenyan selected together with swimmer Emily Muteti, who lives and studies in the United States. His expectations are high but also pervaded by a healthy realism that shows a good dose of maturity for a boy not yet 20 years old.
It will be the best experience of my life," admits the flag bearer of Kenyan swimming, "it will allow me to grow, learn from great champions and improve. My goal is to stay in the slipstream and be able to touch up my personal best, which would be a success. Honestly though, I don't think I can go any further, it will be very difficult to qualify for the advanced stages of the races.
Danny's real goal is a longer-term one, which is by no means impossible to achieve. The Kenyan national record belongs to another half-African, half-European swimmer, Jason Dunford whose speciality was butterfly (he finished fifth at the Beijing Olympics in 2008) but who also holds the best times in the 50, 100 and 200 metre freestyle.
"I believe that if I keep training like this and gain more experience, in one or two years at the most I can beat his record and become the best swimmer ever in Kenya, at least in my discipline."
Of course, Danilo's life is not just about swimming, training and studying.
As soon as I have the chance, I like to go back to what I will always consider my home," says the young man. "In Mombasa, in addition to my family, my father, mother and two sisters who have not chosen swimming as a profession, I have many friends with whom I like to get together and maybe go out for a nice Italian meal.
Pizza is at the top of his wish list, but not only.
"My Italianness is also evident in this, as well as the fact that, like Italians, I gesture a lot when I speak. - Danny smiles - And if in England I suffer a lot from the lack of certain dishes, my luck in Kenya is also having Uncle Fernando who has an Italian restaurant in Kilifi, the Makuti. When I come back I can't wait to go there and eat some specialities of the other land I love.
Swimming, pizza, Kenya, Italy and many dreams of a boy with the Kenyan cap on his head and the head on his shoulders ... a bit tricolour. We would like to wish him all the best, starting from Tokyo 2021.
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