The stars of the Fair Play Menarini International Award celebrate an exceptional 2023

The Fair Play Menarini International Award, dedicated to the ethical principles of sportsmanship, loyalty, and respect, lived up to expectations once again this year. In its twenty-seventh edition, the three-day event in Florence last July was an emotional celebration that brought together the stars of sports, and is gearing up to elevate the spectacle once more in 2024.

In the summer, the Roman Theater in Fiesole hosted the winners of the 2023 edition—international sports legends who serve as shining examples of fair competition, both on the field and in their daily lives.

At the XXVII Fair Play Menarini International Award ceremony, Javier Zanetti, the iconic captain of Inter, was honored in the “Legendary Figure” category. Joining him in representing football was Antonio Cabrini, the former world champion with the Italian national team in Spain 1982, who received recognition in the “Role Model for Youth” category.

The 2023 winners of the Fair Play Menarini International Award on the stage of the Fiesole Roman Theater

Italian swimming’s symbols, Massimiliano Rosolino, a multiple Olympic medalist, and Paralympic champion Giulia Ghiretti, were acknowledged in the “Sport Promotion” and “Sport Beyond Sport” categories, respectively.

Luis Alberto Scola Balvoa, the former leader of the Argentine basketball team, received the award in the “Fair Play” category, while Alessandra Campedelli, the former coach of the Iranian women’s volleyball national team, was celebrated in the “Social Values of Sport” category.

Fencing made its mark on the scene with the outstanding Italian foil fencer Elisa Di Francisca, who was honored in the “Sport and Courage” category. Francesca Schiavone contributed to the tennis discipline by receiving the award in the “Sport and Life” category.

Larissa Iapichino, a notable figure in Italian athletics, was presented with the award in the “A Smile for Life” category, while Jacopo Volpi, director of Rai Sport, represented fair play in sports journalism in the “Narrating Emotions” category.

Lastly, the winter sports ambassadors who received the prestigious award were two luminaries of alpine skiing and biathlon: Deborah Compagnoni in the “Career Fair Play” category and Lisa Vittozzi in the “Fair Play and the Environment” category.

Figures of the caliber of Tommie Smith, Edwin Moses, and Federica Pellegrini, global ambassadors of Fair Play Menarini, who played pivotal roles in some of the most significant chapters in the history of sports, stood alongside them during the ceremony.


The victories of the Fair Play awardees during 2023


2023 proved to be a magical year in the realm of sports accomplishments. Across the competitive season, numerous athletes, including those present in Fiesole in July and others who were awarded in previous editions, took center stage with extraordinary performances. They captivated audiences, fueling excitement and kindling the dreams of fans.

Among them is Larissa Iapichino, a rising star in Italian athletics. The Tuscan-born long jumper won the European Under-23 title in the long jump and, in the same discipline, secured victory in three stages of the Diamond League, the world’s most prestigious series of international meetings.

Luis Alberto Scola Balvoa, a global basketball icon awarded in the “Fair Play” category, may have hung up his sneakers, but his lasting impact on the Saski Baskonia team has not gone unnoticed. 

The Spanish club, where the Argentine player showcased his skills from 2000 to 2007, has chosen to retire his jersey as a heartfelt gesture of appreciation. From November 2023, no other player from the Vitoria club will be able to wear the number 4, a privilege reserved exclusively for basketball legends.

Moving from the basketball court to the world of volleyball, 2023 has brought another round of significant achievements for Alessandra Campedelli, who received the Fair Play award in the category of “Social Values of Sport.” The coach, renowned for her previous contributions to the Italian deaf national team and the Iranian women’s national team, now assumes the role of leading promotion projects for Volley Verona, a prominent club in the Italian Superlega volleyball.

Even though Javier Zanetti retired from professional football in 2014, his influence on the sport remains unwavering. In 2023, he was honored in the Fair Play category as a “Legendary Figure” and unveiled his latest project, the book “Un Legame Mondiale – Storie di calcio fra Italia e Argentina” (A World Bond: Football Stories between Italy and Argentina). The book encapsulates the roots of his deep emotional connection between the two nations, forged through familial ties and an enduring love for the beautiful game.

Eugenio Giani, Federica Pellegrini, Javier Zanetti and Michele Cagiano at the award ceremony

One of the most prominent figures in winter sports, Lisa Vittozzi, a specialist in Biathlon and recipient of the “Fair Play and the Environment” award, had an exciting season. She secured a notable third-place finish in the overall women’s World Cup, further highlighted by a victory in the individual specialty cup. Throughout the season, she graced the podium ten times and earned four medals at the Oberhof World Championships, including an individual gold.

Meanwhile, Sofia Goggia, who received the “Sport Promotion” award in 2017, and Federica Brignone, honored as “A Role Model for Youth” in 2019, continue to dominate Italian skiing. Goggia once again showcased her prowess by conquering the Downhill World Cup and securing the trophy for the fourth time in her career. Brignone achieved a remarkable feat at the Courchevel/Meribel World Championships last February, clinching the gold medal in the combined event and the silver in the giant slalom. 

As the year comes to a close, it coincides with the pinnacle of the 2023/24 World Cup. On December 10, Sofia Goggia secured a victory in the Super G specialty at the St. Moritz stage, and the following week, Federica Brignone replicated her success in Val d’Isere, triumphantly raising her arms to the sky once again in Super G.

In the men’s competition, Dominik Paris, who received the “Sustenium Energy and Heart” Award in 2020, has made a remarkable comeback to captivate snow enthusiasts with a significant win. This exceptional athlete concludes this initial part of the season with a triumphant downhill performance on the challenging Saslong course, bringing a sense of joy that had been missing for the men of Italian skiing since March 2022.

Giulia Ghiretti never ceases to amaze, securing the gold medal in the SB4 100m breaststroke at the Paralympic Swimming World Championships in Manchester. For this athlete recognized in the “Sport beyond sport” category, this recent achievement is just the latest addition to her impressive list, now boasting 24 medals from Paralympics, World Championships, and European Championships.

This has been a standout year also for Giacomo Perini (2017 Study and Sport Award), who adds another achievement to his already impressive trophy collection. Securing gold at the European Rowing Championships, along with setting a world record, solidifies the rower’s status as one of the most influential athletes in Italian Paralympic sports.

In the realm of swimming, there’s exciting news for Benedetta Pilato, who was awarded in 2020 in the category “A Role Model for Youth.” She has now clinched the title of the new European champion in the 50m breaststroke. The Azzurra emerged victorious in the continental competition with a remarkable time of 28.86 seconds, standing as the sole swimmer to break the “29-second wall.”

This mix of incredible performances bodes well for the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris, set to kick off in August 2024.