Jury Chechi, aka the Lord of the Rings', first began practising artistic gymnastics as a youngster in his hometown of Prato in Tuscany. He then moved to the famous Società Ginnastica Varesina in Varese, where he specialized in gymnastics rings, and soon won a place in the national side. Between 1989 and 1995 he won six consecutive Italian titles, the Mediterranean Games, the University Championships, four European titles and five world titles. In 1992 he was set to participate in the Barcelona Olympics until injury forced him off the team. He did travel to the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, where he won the long sought-after gold medal. In 2004, he was Italy's standard-bearer at the Athens Olympics, where he won the bronze medal in the rings. He is now advisor to the Ministry of Youth Policy and Sport.
After Italy's scintillating extra-time win over Germany in Dortmund, Chechi spoke exclusively to FIFAworldcup.com.
I really enjoyed the match. I don't know why, but I felt really calm. There was something telling me that the side would play well. I said as much to some friends of mine who watched this fantastic performance with me.
The Azzurri have exuded such self-belief during this tournament that I was sure from the very start that we'd get this far.
I even went to watch the Italy v Ukraine match in Hamburg with the Minister of Youth Policy and Sport, Giovanna Melandri, the President of CONI (the Italian National Olympic Committee) Giovanni Petrucci and the whole Italian delegation.
Even then I was quite calm. After Zambrotta's goal we all breathed a sigh of Relief, but I always had this feeling that we were going to do it. And then Toni scored those two goals. What a match!
After the game in Hamburg I spoke a bit with Alex (Del Piero), as we're friends. Alex was a bit sad because he didn't get on in that match, but he was still very relaxed and confident, and extremely focused on the upcoming matches. You could sense from his words that he was really determined to have a great FIFA World Cup.
And last night you saw how he came on and finished the game. I'm personally delighted for him.
Yesterday (at the semi-final) I felt the same calmness and confidence in the end result as I had in Hamburg. I must admit that during extra time there was a small part of me worried about the game going to penalties, but the other part was as calm as ever. Well... maybe not all that calm. Let's just say that I was confident. It was just as well we were playing against Germany. Had we been facing Argentina, I think it would all have been a bit more complicated. I think that the side showed an incredible unity and solidity and everyone played well. No one player was better or worse than the other. Everyone worked hard for the common goal and played their part. Fabio (Cannavaro), Alex (Del Piero) and even those players that were substituted worked really hard.
What is your current job?
I am advisor to the Ministry of Youth Policy and Sport
What is the best match that you have ever seen?
I hope that I haven't seen the best match yet. I'm hoping that will take place on 9 July at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. I do remember the 1982 FIFA World Cup though. The match that sticks most in the mind, even more than the Final, is the (second-round) game against Brazil (which Italy won 3-2).
Which match would you most like to have played in?
Any FIFA World Cup Final. It would be so emotional to play in a Final.
Would you like to take the opportunity to promote an association?
I'm an honorary member of the Special Olympics, an international association that organises sporting events for children with intellectual disabilities. Between 30 September and 5 October the European Championships are being held in Italy. This is a very important occasion for this organisation and all the athletes that are taking part.
What is your website address?