We The Italians | Italian sport: Abbagnale, the legendary brothers of Italian rowing

Italian sport: Abbagnale, the legendary brothers of Italian rowing

Italian sport: Abbagnale, the legendary brothers of Italian rowing

  • WTI Magazine #165 Jul 23, 2023
  • 795

In the history of sports, there are many families who have managed to win from generation to generation. And there are also brothers, sisters, cousins who have won in the same sport or in different sports. But in the 1980s there were three brothers who still have no equal in the world for what they won.

This is the story of the Abbagnale brothers, three giants who dominated the rowing world for twenty years without rival. Theirs is also a story of social redemption, for Giuseppe, Carmine and Agostino were born in Pompei, in the province of Naples, Campania, into a large (besides them there were sisters Maria, Rosaria and Nunzia) and poor family.

Their father Vincenzo was a farmer, and their sons, all born with powerful arms, were destined to help him in the countryside to get food for the whole family. But fate had other plans for them. Their mother's brother, Giuseppe La Mura, was a rowing coach, and because of his work he convinced the three brothers' father to train them as children because he saw them as big and stubborn and was convinced they would be good athletes.

So starting with Giuseppe, the oldest of the three, those kids started dividing their days between school, training and working in the countryside. It was a hard life of nothing but sacrifice, but their uncle understood that they could become champions and encouraged them every day to train harder and harder. And he was right.

When Giuseppe turned 18, he participated for the first time in the first Italian championships and won them almost without struggling. From that day Giuseppe never stopped winning the Italian championships for sixteen consecutive years.

No one in Italy was stronger than him with oars in his hand, and so he became a national team athlete and began competing all over the world. In 1981, his brother Carmine, who had become almost as strong as Giuseppe, became his partner in the "coxed pair," the boat with which they amazed the world for eleven consecutive years, becoming the unbeatable brothers of rowing.

From the 1981 World Championships in Munich to the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Giuseppe and Carmine, together with helmsman Giuseppe “Peppiniello” Di Capua, won 7 world titles, 2 gold medals and one silver medal in three Olympic editions, and from 1988 to 1991 they lost only one international race!

They had become a "war machine" on the boat in which they competed, and every opponent was intimidated when he saw them take to the water. They had incredible strength, and their two victories at the 1984 Los Angeles and 1988 Seoul Olympic Games became legendary because they rowed in the lead from the first meter to the end of the scheduled two kilometers, with their opponents never able to get close. Then, at the Seoul Olympic Games, the youngest brother, Agostino, entered the scene, and an hour after Giuseppe and Carmine's triumph, he won gold with the "quadruple sculls" crew.

On that day, for the first time in Olympic history, three brothers won an Olympic gold medal, becoming rowing and sports legends. But the story of the Abbagnale brothers did not end in 1995, when the two older brothers retired from racing. In 1996 Agostino won his second Olympic gold in Atlanta and in 2000 his third at the Sydney Olympic Games, thus surpassing the two extraordinary brothers in the number of Olympic victories.