Italian gymnast Vanessa Ferrari has had a tough few years. Losing out on a bronze medal in Rio and coming fourth on floor at an Olympic Games for the second time in her career (she was narrowly beaten by Great Britain’s Amy Tinkler), she then underwent Achilles surgery in late 2016. In a move that came as a surprise to many, Ferrari was selected by the Italian federation to compete at Worlds 2017 in Montreal. Having only been training for a few months and not yet up to full fitness, she still managed to qualify for the floor final. As she was up last and had already seen high scores coming from Mai Murakami (JPN), Jade Carey (USA) and Claudia Fragapane (GBR), Ferrari knew that she would need to upgrade her routine from qualifications to have any chance of winning a medal.
The routine started well, with the audience getting into it and enjoying her dramatic choice of music, O Fortuna. Then it was time for the upgraded second tumbling pass – a whip into a full twisting double tuck. As she took off after the whip, it was clear that something was badly wrong. Ferrari went ahead with the tumble but landed on all fours, clutching her left heel and was taken out of the arena in a wheelchair. In the following weeks, she confirmed that she intended to continue with her gymnastics career and underwent yet another Achilles surgery, this time a reconstruction of the tendon due to the complete tear she suffered in Montreal.
Ferrari began rehabilitation in the months following the surgery and started posting updates on social media showing her progress throughout 2018. The Melbourne World Cup in February 2019 was to be her comeback competition, with many wondering if she would be able to get back to her previous level. While it was not the most competitive World Cup event, with many major teams choosing not to send any gymnasts, Ferrari qualified first for the floor final and gave an excellent performance there, scoring 13.300, winning gold and, perhaps most importantly, scoring crucial Olympic qualification points. Ferrari is aiming to qualify as an individual for Tokyo 2020, given that a place on a four-person team will be hard to obtain, and this is the beginning of her journey.