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Jury Chechi and the perfect routine at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics

9.887: this is the very high score that the judging panel assigns to the routine performed by gymnast Jury Chechi at the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, the night between 28 and 29 July 1996, during the final of the rings of the XXVI Olympic Games.
A score that crowns the entire career of the gymnast and thanks to which Italy wins a gold medal in gymastic artistics, thirty-two years after the one won by Franco Menichelli in the free body at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The entire routine is followed by a religious type silence from the public in the stands, interspersed only with a hint of applause during the figures made in an impeccable way by the Tuscan gymnast (above all, the famous cross, performed without the slightest effort emerging from the concentrated gaze of the gymnast).
Exercises at sunset
At the end of the competition, as soon as he landed on the platform, gymnast Jury Chechi exults as if he had already won, because he is well aware of having completed a perfect routine. The commentator, barely holding back the emotion, concludes: There can be no surprises: this is a golden routine!.
And gold, in fact, it will be. After all, Jury Chechi had been waiting for that medal for four years. A favourite for the victory already at the previous Olympics, those in Barcelona in 1992, he had broken his Achilles' tendon a month before the start of the Games because of an unsuccessful routine, one of the many serious accidents then overcome that have marked the entire career of an athlete among the greatest in our history.

Portrait of Jury Chechi as a young gymnast

Jury Chechi was born in Prato in 1969, his parents call him Jury in honour of the Russian cosmonaut Gagarin and, more generally, in tribute to the Soviet Union (a tradition continued by Jury Chechi himself who called the two sons born in 2003 and 2005, respectively Dimitri and Anastasia). Small in stature and frail, he became fond of artistic gymnastics as a child and began to attend the gym Etruria Society which his parents enrolled him in 1976.
When, at the age of five, I performed my first Tsukahara getting out of bed to go to kindergarten, the gymnast will later remember, my family saw for me a bright gymnastic career. For this reason, after several detached chandeliers, broken sofas and some hysterical crises of my mother, I was taken, at the age of seven, to the gym Etruria in Prato, where my sporting career began under the expert guidance of Tiziano Adofetti.
Jury Chechi during a presentation
Already in 1977, when he was only eight years old, with the first place of the Tuscan Regional Championship, Jury Chechi obtained the first of a long series of successes. He joined the national junior gymnastics, in 1984 he moved to Varese to train in the prestigious Varese Gymnastics Society, specialising in the discipline of rings. He then participated in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, but it was the following year that he revealed himself, winning third place at the World Championships, to which the following year he added the first European title in the specialty.
Third also at the 1991 Gyminastics World Championships, he won six gold medals at the XI Mediterranean Games in the same year: rings, free body, the horse with handles, symmetrical parallels, individual open competition, and team open competition. He was one of the favourites at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, but, as we have already said, he was forced to give up on them.

The perfect routine: Jury Chechi, gymnast and Lord of the Rings

A serious injury and non-participation in the maximum competition that a gymnast can ever dream of. For some gymnasts it could be the end of a promising career, but not for Jury Chechi, who over the years will have to face and overcome several difficult moments before climbing the highest steps of his extraordinary sporting history. Jury Chechi, in fact, does not lose heart: he still goes to Barcelona, even if as a television commentator (inventing a role that he will return to play after the retirement), to return to the competitions the following year, winning the first of his five consecutive world titles, the first gymnast in history to win five gold medals in a row in a specialty.
Technogym platform for calisthenic workout
A record that earned gymnast Jury Chechi the nickname of Lord of the Rings, inspired by the famous novel by Tolkien of which, among other things, the Tuscan athlete is a fan. A not very original epithet, already attributed to other athletes such as the Bulgarian Jovčev and the Greek Tampakos, but with which he presents himself on the platform in Atlanta, succeeding in confirming once again thanks to the victory of the Olympic gold with the perfect routine of July 28, 1996.
Jury Chechi, at that point, is twenty-six years old and has won everything that an athlete can win: perhaps it is for this lack of stimuli and goals that announces his retirement the following year, in 1997. But it's just a false alarm, because, in 1999, Jury Chechi returned to compete in view of the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Once again, however, not everything goes as planned: fate has in store an unexpected and painful turn for the fate of this great athlete.

Fate has an unexpected and painful turn in store for the fate of this great athlete.

The last victory of an amazing gymnast

May 12, 2000. During a training session, two months before the start of the Olympics, Jury Chechi breaks the tendon of the long head of the left brachial biceps. The injury of the gymnast is very serious, and the medical diagnosis leaves no hope of continuing to do competitive gymnastics. Jury Chechi thus announces, for the second time, the retirement, which this time seems definitive. I am a lucky gymnast who has achieved his goals, fulfilling his dream of being a sportsman, he will declare, for this reason I want everyone to remember me smiling in Atlanta, with gold around my neck, and not injured and sad.
Athlete trains at the rings of the Technogym calisthenics platform
Also, in this case, however, fate reserves an unexpected turn that will give the gymnast champion of Prato another conclusion, more worthy and glorious, for his career: one last victory, perhaps the most important. In 2003, in fact, Jury Chechi's father was admitted for a serious bacterial infection and the former gymnast promised him that, if he was cured, he would return to compete. Every promise is due and, once the parent has been restored, Jury Chechi returns to train in view of the Athens Olympics, where Jury Chechi has the honour of being the standard bearer of the Italian expedition during the opening ceremony, before Italian gymnast getting his last, great, victory.

In this case, however, fate reserves an unexpected turn that will give Jury Chechi another conclusion, more worthy and glorious, for his career: one last victory, perhaps the most important.

In the final of the rings on 22 August 2004, Jury Chechi wins, in fact, at the age of thirty-four, an unexpected bronze medal behind the Bulgarian Jordan Jovčev, second, and the Greek Dimosthenis Tampakos, gold medal. But the grand finale of Jury Chechi’s career does not end here: to the jury, in front of the television stations, Jury Chechi indicates that the real winner of the race should have been Jovčev, and not the athlete of the house Tampakos, guilty of an routine characterised by numerous imperfections. It was the last gesture of an amazing career: after the Athens Olympics, and after winning his second Olympic medal, Jury Chechi retired permanently.

This time for real.

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