Yeah, it isn’t every day we bump into an Olympic triathlete training in open water feet away from us. I must admit his ferocious wake did have me feeling slightly inferior and appear weakened. After observing this super-jock more closely the next day it was time to approach him, sad but true, using my embarrassing rudimentary Italian. Partially expecting some Italian bravado explanation regarding his awesome stroke, I was thoroughly shocked receiving the exact opposite response. He was totally patient and humble, while eager to hear how an American family of swimmers decided upon l’isola di Lampedusa.

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During those first few minutes together, he answered our questions concerning his unique swimming style, describing this was actually a technical movement used for training, elaborating further, telling us he’d soon be off to Brazil representing Switzerland in the 2016 Olympics.

Say for instance you’re an elite car enthusiast, said man is a F1 Ferrari, then again, perhaps you’ve been that clothes horse couture aficionada, purchasing hand cut gowns sewn at the house of Dior; his muscle tone surpasses those aforementioned designers, not attained pumping iron mind you, this character sculpted himself exclusively by swimming, biking and running, nearly every waking hour, seven committed days. Whether here, swimming eighteen hours straight powering through a journey onto Isola di Linosa, another Sicilian island, and back before nightfall, or during winter running across the frigid Alps, finishing what I’d consider to be thoroughly insane, forty-one hours without sleep, drinking high-test water and downing professional sports gel.

This brief stranger eventually introduced himself claiming, “I am Alfonso Angelo Luca.” Almost immediately segwaying into his other passion, currently practicing medicine as a clinical research doctor in the idyllic city of Verona.

Now this is an exemplary figure one invites over for a home-cooked lunch, don’t you agree? There was our superb guest of honor that next day enjoying fusilli tossed after sautéing garlic, capers, infused red chili pepper, then halved cherry tomatoes, topped with parmigiano-reggiano — followed by three sides — local lentils al dente drenched in Sicilian olive oil — caramelized yellow peppers and onions — wilted radicchio, alongside Sicily’s customary assorted olive, sundried tomato plate, each dish dipped, generally pushed, using crunchy on the outside, cushiony inside, picture-perfect Italian pane.

Alfonso brought along two generous bags of subtle treats from his family’s Panificio Luca here in Lampedusa; one containing almond biscotti, the other cellophane sack stuffed with flat rectangular-ridged cookies, dusted lightly with cinnamon. I poured some hazelnuts into an empty espresso cup, filling another with roasted almonds, laid out some just-picked green figs among an equal share of baby apricots, then lingered gabbing ‘til half past three that afternoon sipping Ferrarelle’s effervescente acqua minerale.

We alternated between speaking Italian and English, comprehending ninety-nine percent of each other’s fluent language. Our spirited conversation seemed evenly split, primarily discussing exercise, intermittently reverting to global nutrition, returning then again — optimum health remained the common denominator. At some point I’ll guess around 2:45, this discussion shifted when cancer came up. Jeanette mentioned our diet drastically evolved three years ago discovering a melanoma tumor in my leg which required surgery, pronto.

Essentially, people are my business. I don’t profess to be a psychotherapist, although styling hair nearly four decades places my work front and center amid many client’s ultra-personal stories. People experience, coupled with gut instinct drew an undeniable conclusion, alongside anyone else awake; Alfonso will beyond a shadow of a doubt be some fortunate person’s finest catch. A mere twenty-seven years old, wisdom well ahead of his young life, confessed what he believes to be the honest truth about cancer, specifically mine. Biology, microscopes, CAT scans and the like were by no means of any interest to me as a career path, nor is swimming for that matter, both are Alfonso’s tremendously focused domains.

By profound manner Alfonso spoke directly, staring into my face expressing that former tumor wasn’t in fact the result of a careless improper diet nor sinister-ultraviolet rays. I previously indicated forty years submerged by intimate conversation for legitimate reason; what information Alfonso was about to relay tapped the very nerve traveling from my heart which instantly wells water, filling both eyes. It is his, Alfonso’s opinion, and I’m gonna side with him — cancer quite frequently can be attributed to unnecessary stress, traumatic circumstance in particular. These life-threatening tumors, Alfonso confirmed, commonly reveal themselves ten or fifteen years subsequent to a king-sized emotionally charged incident. To be perfectly frank here, Alfonso hinted the 2003 passing of my mother may have initiated that fast-growing tumor which obviously hadn’t existed before Jean died.

Out of thin air, water rather, an enormously talented individual revealed himself, on what I’ll simply recommend being one astonishing Italian island, delivering the message I haven’t completely wrapped my head around thus far. For those enlightened souls reading this already triumphant and aware of the negativity surrounding stress, I’ll stand and applaud your serenity. Everyone else please go ahead, google Alfonso Angelo Luca; why not join Jeanette, LouLou and me, we’ll be rooting for him early-August, he’ll definitely perform his utmost best in Rio while simultaneously manifesting beneficial energy toward all humankind.

Two side notes here, firstly, the bright side. As a parting keepsake for LouLou, Alfonso gifted her his swim cap which he wore bringing him the number one spot in World Cup Cozumel, an open water 1o kilometer race.

Secondly, the darker flip side. A nasty turn of events presented itself to all open water swimmers competing in the 2016 Olympics. The latest world news continue reports of dead bodies, (mostly men and animal carcusses) alongside raw sewage befouling Rio de Janeiro’s coastline; that exact course Alfonso diligently trained so long for is now a lethal hazard to his and other competitor’s health. Preposterous officials warned Olympic swimmers to hold their heads above water, additionally suggesting they keep their mouths closed, thereby preventing toxic exposure.
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