Alice Bellandi is representing Italy in Olympic women’s judo.
It means that over the next two weeks, you’ll witness her sweeping the leg, throwing her opponent, and displaying the tenacity required of an expert martial artist.
But when you witness her Instagram odes to her partner, you’ll quickly understand that underneath that tough exterior lies the heart of a romantic to rival Shelley, Keats, or, at the very least, Dolly Parton.
The 2018 Junior World Champion and 2019 Judo Grand Prix silver medalist took to social media this spring and posted a pair of heartfelt tributes to her partner Chiara Verger. In April, Bellandi composed this as the two embraced on the waterfront:
The Italian text reads:
“You changed my life, upset my priorities, fixed my dreams.
You taught me so much, you let us switch roles, you licked my wounds as if they were yours.
You are my victory, my starting point for each day that ends.”
It’s rare that Google translates beautifully in poetry.
Rarer still when that poetry is written by someone trained to trap her opponent in an ankle lock. But Bellandi’s text is almost breathtaking in its emotional honesty and vulnerability.
A month later, Bellandi posted a candid romantic close-up of her and Verger:
This caption translates to:
“Maybe because in your eyes I can see the future.
I feel like giving you everything I haven’t dreamed of yet.
This is my primary desire: to be enlightened of you.
Everything else is made up of bad stars.
You are precious, and to me that means more than just telling you that you are beautiful.
It means you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
That’s what we all wish our wedding vows sounded like. Absolutely perfect.
What makes Bellandi’s sentiments especially moving is that, as you might expect in a country that is home to the Roman Catholic Church, same-sex marriages are not recognized in Italy. In 2016, Italy legalized LGBTQ civil unions but stopped short of marriage equality.
Furthermore, just last month, the Vatican attempted to interfere with a proposed law expanding anti-discrimination protections to the Italian LGBTQ community.
We know that Bellandi’s partner will never be far from her mind as she attempts to bring a judo gold medal back home to Italy. Let’s hope that the country she represents will recognize that a love like theirs is worthy of equal recognition and protection.