Will equestrian Anky van Grunsven of the Netherlands and Italian fencer Valentina Vezzali become the first non-Americans to win gold in individual events — for four straight Olympics?
(Photo by AFP/Getty Images)
By Mike Tierney, Special to Universal Sports
The Anky and Valentina Show. That is not the latest animated TV sit-com, but a potential subtitle of the Summer Games.
Only two Olympians — long jumper Carl Lewis and discus thrower Al Oerter, both Americans — have bossed their events long enough to amass four consecutive gold medals. Their elite club could admit two women members in London of equestrian Anky van Grunsven, 44, of the Netherlands and Italian fencer Valentina Vezzali, 38, continue where they left off in 2008 . . . and 2004 . . . and 2000.
The dedicated van Grunsven, 44, does not horse around but loves being around horses. Her husband, dad and brothers are involved in the game, and her farm is home to 30 four-legged athletes. When not guiding her gelding Salinero in practice and competition, she pulls the reins for a riding clothes business.
Like van Grunsven, Vezzali preceded her long road paved in gold with a silver at the ’96 Games. The wife of a soccer pro, Vezzali is known for quick thrusts and elegant footwork in her speciality event, the foil. Italy will entrust the good-hands Vezzali to carry the nation’s flag in the opening ceremony, which is the opening scene of what could be the Anky and Valentina Show.