The Olympics Committee has announced that the Italian volleyball player Paola Egonu will be the flag bearer for the inauguration. Not for the country’s team, but for the entire sports event. So, she will carry the Game’s flag, representing every athlete from every country of the world. In fact, she represents diversity in sports, not just for her origins, but for her choices. Paola Egonu is a proud daughter of immigrants and she refuses any label on her sexuality. And that, haters don’t understand.
I fall in love at first sight
The volleyball player came out of the closet a few years ago and she did it with a bang. Since people were speculating, Egonu decided to silence the rumours once and for all. It was 2018 and it was the final of the national Super League. Her team of Novara lost against Conegliano but that wasn’t the story. After the match, the player ran to the sidelines to kiss her girlfriend, the volleyball player Katarzyna Skorupa.
The kiss quickly became the story, instead of Conegliano’s victory. The online bullying showed its face right away, pointing the finger at Egonu, blaming her for her diversity. She never denied her relationship, saying she has a girlfriend and she finds it normal.
When the couple broke up a few months ago, it wasn’t under the spotlight. Indeed, it was a private matter, as it should. But people still had questions about her sexuality. So, she decided to give answers.
Paola Egonu represents diversity
“I admitted I had loved a woman and everyone was saying I was lesbian. That’s not how it works,” said Paola Egonu to Il Corriere della Sera, “I fell in love with a colleague but that doesn’t mean I can’t fall in love with a man or another woman. Perhaps I am confused but that shouldn’t matter. What matters is how I play volleyball, not who I sleep with.” What she admits is: she falls in love at first sight.
And she played like a champion, soon becoming the symbol of the Italian national team. So much so that people were wondering if she could be Italy’s flag bearer and at the Olympics. However, the thought of a woman with Nigerian parents and with a fluid sexuality, representing the country scared a lot of people.
“I would love to take on that responsibility,” said the volleyball player, “me, a black and Italian woman, with the flag. Ignorance needs to be eradicated. I am ready.”
Egonu can start eradicating prejudice during the Olympics inauguration. There, she won’t just represent international sports, but she will also represent a successful athlete that isn’t a white man. Because women can be just as talented, as the example of the Italvolley Under 20 shows.
Still, when the Olympics Committee shared its decision, haters had loud opinions. Sports can be the means to fight racism, but Italy has a long way to go. Just the treatment of full-time athletes and the clauses related to motherhood in contracts says it all.