The Sette Colli swimming contest is due to take place this weekend. The contestants had the opportunity to attend an audience with the pope, that is how the Hungarian swimmers got to meet Pope Francis. In fact, swimmers Richárd Bohus, Boglárka Kapás, Tamás Kenderesi, Dávid and Evelyn Verrasztó, the president of the Hungarian Swimming Association, Sándor Wladár, and Sándor Balogh, who was in charge of the organisation of LEN Congress in Budapest, all had the chance to shake hands with the pope.
Pope Francis I. greeted the sportsmen and -women in Vatican City a day before the kick-off to the 55th Sette Colli competition. A few members were chosen from each competing country’s team.
Due to the excellent Hungarian-Italian ties, 5 members could attend the audience with the pope, while usually, this number was 1 or 2 for the other teams.
Almost the entire Italian team was present, along with their Olympic and world-record winner Gregorio Paltrinieri, and some members of the local junior team could also tag along. Other stars, like the Olympic medalist Swedish Sarah Sjöström, the Dutch Ranomi Kromowidjojo and the South-African Chad le Clos, also attended the special event.
From the Hungarian team, Sándor Wladár president and swimmers Richárd Bohus, Boglárka Kapás, Tamás Kenderesi and Dávid and Evelyn Verrasztó got invited. Sándor Balogh, who was in charge of organising the LEN Congress in June, was also present.
During the audience, Paolo Barelli, president of the Italian and the European Swimming Associations (LEN), thanked the pope in the name of the sportspeople for welcoming them. In his speech, he emphasised that “the sportsmen and sportswomen now present mostly share a language and the same values: the progress of mankind and tolerance towards each other, which, with time, can grow into deeply felt solidarity that removes limits and builds bridges”. He also quoted one of the pope’s old speeches that he said during a similar event:
“Water is life, nothing and no one can exist without water.”
He also added that this thought is especially critical to those attending the event.
Pope Francis also talked about how the achievements of the swimmers indicate discipline, a healthy amount of competitive spirit and excellent teamwork, apart from good time results.
“You all stand as role models and represent that goals can be attained through hard work that requires strong dedication and making sacrifices. It is a great lesson in life that can stand as an example for the following young generation.”
About swimming, the pope also stated that it is an activity that, when done with heart and soul,
“strengthens the mind and the personality, the willpower at the same time, and teaches how to think of each other as an enemy as well as a friend.”
At the end of the audience with the pope, the Italian champions handed over a symbolic national team gear to Pope Francis. Following that, he shook hands with all the participants, including the Hungarian team.
For more news, check out this article about the European Junior Synchronised Swimming Championship.
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