Yeman Crippa, the Italian athletics champion ... who comes from afar

His parents had a large house. Empty. Then they adopted eight children: he, the five brothers and two cousins, all orphans in Ethiopia. But how do you raise a champion? He tells it himself, winner of the 10 thousand meters at the European Championships

  yeman_crippa_opening Yeman Crippa with his gold medal: he was adopted along with his brothers and cousins

«The farthest memory I have is when as a child, with friends and the other children of the village, I used to take cows to pasture. We walked for about thirty minutes, then played hide and seek all day. We always came back because it was dark because we didn't deal with the time. And I was terribly afraid of hyenas coming out in the dark ».
The story of Yemaneberhan - Yeman - Crippa, European champion of 10 thousand meters, begins in 1996 when, the fourth of six brothers, he was born in Dessie, on the Ethiopian plateau. He makes a turn at five years old: his parents die of an infectious disease and, after a period at the home of his uncles, all the children end up in an orphanage in the capital Addis Ababa. Months went by, then another turning point: an Italian couple, Roberto Crippa and Luisa Fricchione, adopt Yeman and their two sisters. They discover that there are still three of them: they take them too and finally they expand the family with two other cousins.

FROM ZERO TO EIGHT CHILDREN - From zero to eight children under one roof, in a large house in Montagne, near Tione, in Trentino. The second life of Yemaneberhan (in the Ethiopian language, “the right arm of God”) starts again from there, in the snow that he had never seen before. Today Yeman is 25 years old and the lines of his lean physique - 51 kilos distributed over one meter and 74 centimeters - hide the fiber that allowed him to fly on the Munich runway, when with a comeback he overtook the Norwegian who preceded him. . Ten kilometers in 27'46'14, 'with the adrenaline rising and the ears blocked by the screams' of the 70,000 of the Olympiastadion. Now we are in Trento, on the hills, in the apartment he shares with Sofia Filippi ( 23 years old, his girlfriend for two , ed) and a roommate. Yeman, athlete of the Fiamme Oro - the group of the State Police - trains every week running between 140 and 170 kilometers. He holds the Italian records of 3,000, 5,000, 10,000 meters, and a half marathon in 59'26 ': he was the first Italian to run 21 kilometers under an hour. The road to the marathon seems to be around the corner.

Yeman, where do your thoughts go in those 27 minutes of competition?
'I try to be focused on the moment, to think about the opponent who is in front, not to waste energy which is then needed for the final. My mental coach taught me that '.

He said this gold has a special value.
«I dedicated this medal to myself for the many sacrifices I made. I think, and I hope so, that it will be just one of many: the first is for me, the next will be for the others ».

What sacrifices did he make?
«As a teenager, the first was to leave football. Then, we athletes jump all summer between retreats and competitions. But after the results you tell yourself that it was worth it ».

Even as a child he was forced to behave a bit like an adult.
'In my opinion, in Africa the kids are a moment ahead: there you enter the world first, you have to take responsibility immediately'.

When did they tell her she was going to have a new dad and a new mom?
'Every day, when they rang at the gate of the orphanage, I thought they were my relatives, who had come to take us home. They never came back. Then an older girl warned me: “Look, you're going to Italy”. Whites were seen as inhabitants of another planet and we were happy. The first meeting was exciting. For a while I called them sir and madam, as they had taught us in the orphanage, but they told us: look, we are father and mother. And so I did ».

And your childhood in Trentino?
“It was beautiful. She changed from having nothing to going to school, where I was very well received. With the brothers we played football, the race came later, even for Kelemu, who however abandoned, and Neka ( which in 2019 won the absolute half marathon championships , ed) '.

Finding photos with the whole family was not easy: the last ones with both parents date back to before 2013, when the spouses, after adopting the eight boys (to which another Ethiopian, Uonishet, who died in 2017 in an accident), they say goodbye. I show Yeman the first shot. “Here we are in front of Montagne's house. I see everyone happy, but it was the last photo because everyone then took the path of him. We were already grown up. I moved to Trento with Neka, who then moved to Trieste, some went to Milan with their mother and others went around doing seasonal jobs ».

Despite the separation, what teachings did your parents give you?
«They gave us a lot of affection and also made it clear that everything must be deserved or bought with the money earned. We have never been spoiled. I bought the first new shoes with a voucher received from the athletics club for the results obtained ».

In 2018, for welcoming you, they were appointed officers of the Order of Merit of the Republic.
“They came to pick us up in Ethiopia and let us all find us together, which is not a foregone conclusion. Dad had a good job (he sold pet food, a job he left behind to devote himself to his family, ed), a big house that he and mum wanted to fill with children. He followed me when I was scarce at playing football and also scarce at running, and he follows me now that I'm strong ».

He wrote on Instagram: «Hi mom, I'm European champion!». It looks like Jovanotti.
'The meaning was that: I'm a lucky boy.'

Can your story be inspiring?
'Many adopted boys write to me:' I also do athletics but I can't reach your results '. They think they can't because they had misfortunes as children and are afraid that they have already played their cards. Instead I want to make it clear that there is always time. I hope to be an example of willpower: dreams must be chased ».

What is running for you?
“It was first a road to success, then a passion. It is time to be with myself and think about the future. For example, to have a family. Now, however, first I have to concentrate on doing my job well, then there will be time for that too ».

What kind of family?
'I have the thought of the average Italian, two children and go. Then maybe I change my mind and do what my parents did. But the important thing for me is to have projects '.