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Josefa Idem


"Motivation is trying to and succeeding in breaking the mental barriers, investigating and demolishing ones own limit."

There is no other woman like her in the history of Italian sport: a champion who chose the Italian flag and paddled her canoe to a record number of World and Olympic Titles in the individual disciplines. Amid all this she managed to have children, take care of others, write articles for newspapers and be politically active. The journey of women is a long march with many 'helmswomen'. Josefa is one of them and her story is destined to inspire generations of other women.


Josefa Idem was born in 1964 in Goch, Germany. She took up canoeing at the age of 11. In 1984, she won a Bronze medal at the Los Angeles Olympics. Until 1989, she competed in World Championships and at the Olympic Games under the German flag. In 1988 she moved to Italy. The following year she met Guglielmo Guerrini, who she chose as her coach, and whom she then married in 1990 and who also became father of her two children. In 1992 she gained Italian citizenship and began competing under the Italian flag. Her impressive rise culminated with a gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Josefa Idem is the most successful female Italian athlete in a single discipline. She is currently also the only woman in the history of Italian canoeing to have won both World and Olympic championships. In total, combining the Olympics and World Championships, she has won 6 golds, 11 silvers and 9 bronze medals, plus an additional 8 golds, 2 silvers and 2 bronze medals at the European Championships. She has won the World Cup twice and has come first in 45 World Cup races. In Italy she has dominated proceedings with 34 titles over 11 years, both individually and in team events. While 10 weeks pregnant, she managed third at the 1994 World Championships and then, just three months after giving birth, she qualified for Atlanta 1996, showing that an athlete can compete straight after childbirth, even if breastfeeding. Josefa Idem is not only a champion she is also a socially responsible person, actively participating in sports and social policies. From 2001 to 2007, she was the Ravenna Councilor for Sport. She has also lent her image to many awareness-raising campaigns, including one for the Italian Association for Multiple Sclerosis (ASIM) and, in 2002, for an organ donor campaign promoted by the Emilia-Romagna regional government. Since 2005, she has written for La Gazzetta dello Sport. Since 2007, she has been on the Scientific Commission for the Monitoring and Control of Doping as part of the Ministry of Health's efforts to safeguard health in sport. In the same year, she also published her autobiography Controcorrente (Against the flow; Sperling & Kupfer). She said the following about sport, "Training is, not wasting time, and maximizing output; it is in this moment that one prepares one's performance." and "Losses obviously hurt, but they are also a superb opportunity to learn to do better the next time". As regards to her foray into politics: "Arguing the facts is of little use. One must fight the underlying causes. That is political commitment."

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