Sport AND Perseverance with Ambra Sabatini
AND is the Future podcast
Season 2, Episode 7
A great example of resilience, determination and WINNING
In this latest episode, Ambra Sabatini explains her incredible journey to become the fastest Paralympic sprinter in the world. She speaks to Ilham about her passion for sports, a car accident that changed her life, her stunning victory at the 2020 Paralympic games, what business leaders can learn from athletes, her advice for young people and so much more!
2:13 - Upbringing and passion for sports
3:38 - Accident that changed her life
5:17 - Victory at the 2020 Paralympic games
8:33 - Toughest challenges
10:51 - What companies can learn from athletes
12:12 - Perfectly imperfect tattoo
13:34 - Diversity, equity and inclusion in sport
15:14 - Advice for young people
16:22 - What’s next?
17:55 - Interests outside of sport
20:39 - Strong support of family
Meet Ambra Sabatini
Ambra Sabatini is the fastest Paralympic sprinter in the world. When she was only 19 years old she broke the world record, running 100 meters in just 14.11 seconds at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. And this is after she had already broken the world record a few months before in the Grand Prix in Dubai. In Tokyo, she also led Italy to a historic clean sweep in the women's 100m as her Italian teammates also won silver and bronze medals.
Ambra was born in Livorno Italy in 2002. On June 5th, 2019 she was involved in a car accident on her way to training and she had to undergo an amputation of her left leg above the knee…but she never gave up on her love for sport.
Ilham Kadri: Today I am delighted to be speaking with Ambra Sabatini….the fastest Paralympic sprinter in the world! When she was only 19 years old she broke the world record, running 100 meters in just 14.11 seconds at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. And this is after she had ALREADY broken the world record a few months before in the Grand Prix in Dubai.
We are so proud to sponsor Amber in our Solvay4Sport initiative and I'm even more excited to have this chance to speak one-on-one with her. Today we have some help from Carole who will help us with Italian and English translation.
Buongiornoo Ambra… Grazie mille per essere qui con noi.. Ambra, thank you so much for joining me, and those are the only words I can say in Italian.
Ambra Sabatini: grazie a voi. È un vero piacere essere qui con voi e sono davvero felice. E comunque sono ottime parole.
Carole: Thank you so much for having me on board today, and I have to say what you said in Italian is totally good enough.
Ilham Kadri: Yeah, I need to learn Italian. So before we get into your incredible athletic achievements, Amber, can you tell us, and the audience are solving employees or other followers, can you tell us more about your upbringing in Italy? Country of love and what first sparked your interest in sports?
Upbringing and passion for sports
Ambra Sabatini: Ok, è diciamo che la mia passione per lo sport è nata. Si, sin da piccola. Il primo ad avermela trasmessa è stato mio padre.
Carole: My passion for sports really grew as a kid already, and that was transmitted directly by my father himself, who's passionate about sports.
Ambra Sabatini: il mio primo sport è stato il pattinaggio artistico. E poi ho praticato pallavolo per sei anni e infine diciamo che gli spazi in palestra mi stavano un po' stretti e sono passata all'atletica.
Carole: I started with ice skating, and then I switched to volleyball for about six years, and then the spaces were becoming a bit tight for me, so I opened up to athletics.
Ambra Sabatini: Esatto. È ho raggiunto subito diversi risultati. Ero campionessa regionale nel mezzofondo. E poi ho avuto il mio incidente nel duemila e diciannove e ho dovuto cambiare la mia specialità, dal mezzofondo alla velocità.
Carole: I could already reach really good results in the very first moments of athletics. And I did in the regional championships until I unfortunately got injured back in 2019.
Accident that changed her life
Ilham Kadri: Yeah. And indeed, and thank you Amber, for opening up then, of course, in 2019 and June 5th, 2019, everything changed for you and in your life when you were involved in an accident. But Ambra you never let that stop you from achieving your dreams. And I know sometimes you said you were discouraged, but you kept, you know, you were determined to continue and now you are the fastest paralympic sprinter in the world. Can you tell us what that journey was like and how you remained determined and resilient?
Ambra Sabatini: certo è stato, diciamo, un viaggio abbastanza breve, visto che poi sono ritornata a correre un anno dopo L'incidente. Questo è stato grazie anche all'aiuto di tutti i medici e i terapisti che mi hanno seguito.
Carole: The journey actually following this accident I faced back in 2019 was quite short, in the way that I got back to sports just one year after. And that was, thanks, of course, to the great support from the medical network and the doctors.
Ambra Sabatini: Esatto. Ci sono stati diversi alti e bassi. Naturalmente non sono mancati certi momenti però avevo sempre quella voglia di ritornare a fare sport e quello era quello che mi dava la forza di andare avanti, diciamo.
Carole: It's true that I faced a lot of ups and downs, definitely, but the grit and the will to keep going never left me.
Victory at the 2020 Paralympic games
Ilham Kadri: And, thank you for that. And you say thank you to the medical, you know, crew and I know your first prosthesis arrived one year after, you know, your first probably post operative steps and then you started running again and training. And you were only, again, 19 years old when you won the gold medal for the women's a hundred meters at the top, your 2020 Paralympic games. And on top of that, you set the world record. So it's a double win. And even triple with, you know, what's happened to you. And by the way, I watched the YouTube video of you winning and it's just so exciting. I looked at it with my family and they were like, my husband speaks Italian, so we were like, brava, brava. You know, you can really see the emotion as you cross the finish line first. So breaking the word record, Amber, that day must have been an incredible moment. What was it like for you?
Ambra Sabatini: sì, è stata un'emozione indescrivibile che è veramente il mio obiettivo. Ovviamente alle Paralimpiadi, a qualsiasi manifestazione di quel livello è raggiungere la medaglia, non il un tempo il cronometro e quindi il mio primo obiettivo era quello della medaglia. E poi quando ho visto che avevo realizzato il record mondiale non potevo essere piu' felice perché sapevo di aver dato il massimo.
Carole: This is definitely a huge and indescribable feeling I had because my objective for the Paralympics and any other sports championships is really to aim for the medal and not necessarily the best timing. So when I reached that very first objective, I had set for myself, I was over the moon.
Ilham Kadri: And you did it twice, by the way, got the medal and the record. So not only did you break the world record, but you also led Italy to a historic clean sweep in the woman's 100 meters as your Italian teammates also won silver and bronze medal that day. And what great moment when the three of you posed for a picture under the Italian flag? Was everyone back home just thrilled by your victory? How was it back in Italy?
Ambra Sabatini: Beh, sì, è diciamo che è la vera immagine che è passata su tutti i giornali e su tutti gli schermi. È stata poi quella del podio tutto tricolore che ha fatto grandissimo scalpore e non potevo essere più contenta di essere accompagnata da queste mie compagne di squadra perché sono veramente eccezionali e abbiamo un bellissimo rapporto. E poi quando siamo tornati in Italia, ovviamente c' è stata la mega festa.
Carole: Yes indeed. The media coverage was very much on that very same picture of me and my colleagues wearing the colors of Italy. And, it made it even more exceptional to me because I get along very well with them, and our relationship even got tighter when we won all together.
Ilham Kadri: And now getting into the tough emotional parts, Ambra, because this is, it looks like it's all about wins and, you know, celebration, but you've been through sobering times and challenging times. What's one of the toughest challenges you have had to overcome in your sports, and what did you learn from it you can share with the audience?
Ambra Sabatini: Beh, diciamo che una delle esperienze più difficili che ho dovuto affrontare è stato il primo giorno in cui ho indossato la protesi. Eh, sì, pensa. Si potrebbe pensare che sia s stato il giorno più bello della mia vita, ma no. In realtà le prime sensazioni non sono state subito buone.
Carole: I would say that the most difficult challenge I recall is really the first day I tried on the prosthesis. People might think that was the best day of my life, but it was actually quite a challenge.
Ambra Sabatini: Esatto, perché è stata è un po' deludente, visto che è soprattutto con la protesi da corsa. Mi aspettavo qualcosa di più e invece tutto quello che riuscivo a fare erano un po' dei balzi scoordinati e quindi poi mi sono allenata tutta l'estate per riuscire a migliorare. e poi è arrivata una protesi, un po' più completa, un po' che mi aiutasse di più. È insomma da quell'esperienza ho imparato a portare pazienza per poi vedere i risultati.
Carole: I was really disappointed indeed, getting this brand new prosthesis because it was done especially for me. It was a running prosthesis, but the only thing I could manage to do were uncoordinated bumps here and there. I had dreamed of those being different. So I trained all summer to really master it better. And then I got a second molded prosthesis for me that really worked better. And, this taught me definitely to be patient. And, the reward is thereafter.
What companies can learn from athletes
Ilham Kadri: Wow. So it's about unlearning, relearning and being patient. I often tell to our Solvay teams, Ambra, that like athletes, we need to train the muscle practice and have winning mentality. And I think there is so much we can learn from you and from the athletes. What is your training regime like? Do you have good and bad times? Like all of us?
Ambra Sabatini: Beh, sì, ci sono sicuramente giornate si' e giornate no, e non sono normali. e diciamo per esempio, soprattutto in inverno, in cui magari ci sono giornate un po' più fredde e fai fatica, fai fatica comunque a uscire fuori a tutti i muscoli contratti e vorresti rimanere sotto le coperte. Però in quei momenti diciamo mi faccio forza e dico io porto il lavoro a casa e poi si vede comunque.
Carole: Yes. Like everybody, I face days with and without energy. And I have to say that especially now in the winter days, getting shorter, colder, muscles getting tighter. I would rather stay under my bed and a warm bed, but I forced myself and I'm, and then I'm very happy I did.
Perfectly imperfect tattoo
Ilham Kadri: Yeah, you are a human being, Ambra, so you are, I'm like you, you have the phrase, perfectly imperfect, which I'll just love, tattooed, I think on the body left side, if I remember well. If one day I do a tattoo, I will do perfectly imperfect, and you can see it in those powerful photos of you that appear in several magazines. Vanity Fair is the most famous one. What does that sentence, that phrase, mean to you?
Ambra Sabatini: Beh, sì, quello è stato uno dei tatuaggi che ho fatto dopo Tokyo. è Dopo il logo delle Paralimpiadi che ho tatuato dietro la spalla, ho deciso di tatuare questa frase perché per me significava insomma l'avrei accettato, diciamo le mie ferite e cicatrici come qualcosa che mi arricchiva invece che togliere quindi una imperfetta perfezione.
Carole: Indeed, I decided to do this second tattoo. The first one was the logo of the Paralympics that I have on my shoulder. I decided to pick this perfectly imperfect tattoo that shows that I accept all the scars I have as something that enriches me instead of removing something from me.
Diversity, equity and inclusion in sport
Ilham Kadri: Yeah. And this is fabulous. So moving now. I mean, obviously you are, you know, a woman and you know, obviously getting into these challenges, due to your accidents, but thriving in the sports. Do you believe that the world of sports is diverse, equitable, and inclusive? Has it made a lot of progress or is there still a long way to go? What could businesses like mine, ours, learn from your experience?
Ambra Sabatini: Beh, sì, diciamo che il mondo dello sport è inclusivo per definizione. Nel senso che è in generale lo sport tende a unire più che a dividere. Si faccia trovare qui.
Carole: I would say that the sports general overall context is a naturally organically inclusive one, because sports kind of includes different profiles very naturally and spontaneously.
Ambra Sabatini: è però ci sono comunque molte, molte differenze tra paralimpico e Olimpico. e sull'aspetto, diciamo economico e anche di visibilità. Per adesso ancora siamo un passo indietro.
Carole: But there are still differences between Paralympics athletes and regular athletes. This is something still to be worked on. Same goals for visibility given maybe to the category I belong to.
Advice for young people
Ilham Kadri: Yeah. And thank you for putting the spotlight, Ambra on this because like in our company, we are trying to be a better company welcoming handicaps and disabilities. And it's not easy because our companies have not been run designed to also be inclusive on that. And, thank you for sharing that. You are such an incredible role model who inspires everyone from young athletes to business leaders like me. What advice would you give people who are inspired by you?
Ambra Sabatini: Beh, il consiglio che do sempre, diciamo alle persone in generale, è quello di cercare insomma di avere una visione più grande quando magari si affrontano dei momenti no, perché a volte dietro qualche caduta ci può essere anche qualche possibilità nuova.
Carole: My advice would be to kind of expand your own vision. Sometimes you face a challenge, an incident, and behind there is a hidden opportunity you might not have considered.
Ilham Kadri: Yeah. And, thanks for that is to stay, you know, to get full of hope, right? And, still be determined to go after your ambitions. And I think your role model what can happen, you know, the worst, but then turning it, turning it into a strength and brilliantly turning it into strength. You are, you're incredibly young and only at the beginning of an incredible promising career. Yet I am talking about a resume, which is so rich, rich of achievements that's rich of training and determination and resilience. What, what's next for you? What's your next ambition or your next challenge?
Ambra Sabatini: sportivamente parlando mi piacerebbe abbattere il muro dei quattordici secondi nei cento metri, il che diciamo abbastanza difficile. Però ci proveremo quest'anno sicuramente. e poi ci saranno i Mondiali a luglio a Parigi. E quelli sono senz'altro un obiettivo.
Carole: On the sports side, definitely an objective I have set for myself is to crush the 14 seconds record for the hundred meters. It's gonna be a tough one, but I'm gonna do everything and try this. And, July next year are the worldwide Paralympic games. So that's gonna be an important moment in my personal timeline.
Interests outside of sport
Ilham Kadri: So we will be there. I will be there cheering and supporting. Right Ambra? So we'll be all with you. So send me now a bit about you outside training. What do you most enjoy? I mean, are you, I mean, I've seen you on Instagram, right? And there is a great way probably to reach and inspire people. What do you love to do? I mean, do you listen to music? Do you dance? Do you sing? What, what, what's, what is the
Ambra Sabatini: perchè mi piace. Diciamo che mi piace tanto ascoltare la musica e mi tira su anche nei momenti no E quindi mi appoggio sempre un po' alla musica. E poi mi piace tanto guardare i film e anche leggere da quest'anno mi sono posta l'obiettivo di leggere e diciamo che vi pongo le sfide anche fuori, fuori lo sport.
Carole: I love listening to music and that really has a direct impact on boosting my morale. TV watching is something I tend to do as well, but a new objective I have set myself is to read more. So that's a brand new objective.
Ilham Kadri: That's great. So what type of music do you love to listen to and what is the best or the last book you read?
Ambra Sabatini: mi piace ascoltare un po' tutto e diciamo che era prevista un po' varia Ma dai Where Public Image Dragons e i Beatles
Carole: The music I love is I have a diverse list of music on my phone, ranging from one Republic to Imagine Dragons. And the last one I go, I hope you heard
Ilham Kadri: the Beatles, of course. I mean, yeah, the Beatles and, and this is my old generation. You are so young. I mean, I love that you love The Beatles. This is how I, you know, John Lenon and Paul McCartney obviously have been, I grew up singing their songs in Morocco, so I'll read Love this and the book, Ambra, which book you last, last one, you read?
Ambra Sabatini: è l'ultimo che ho letto. È stato su un romanzo, diciamo giallo che di cui è uscita la serie. Si chiama nessuno di uno di noi.
Carole: The last book I read is more of police and, you know, it's always with a bit of a murder thread: One of us is Lying
Strong support of family
Ilham Kadri: Ah, one of us is lying, so I'm gonna get it. So I'm gonna try and read it in my next vacation. So, well here, one of us is not lying here. I think you are truthful to your values and I'm truly inspired by a young lady like you. I think, you are reverse mentoring me because I'm older than you. And you are giving me that energy and inspiration of your, you know, short but so interesting story. The last point is about, I think you talked a lot about the family and you started saying your father has weighed a lot on your career and your love for sports. And, you talked a lot about the great support you had, you have had from your family throughout all the challenges that you face. Can you tell us more about your family bonding and how this has made the difference in your career and life?
Ambra Sabatini: è Diciamo che mio padre è stato quello, appunto, che ci ha trasmesso la passione per lo sport a me e a mio fratello, senza mai costringerci sullo scegliere dove andare, cosa fare, diciamo. e questo diciamo essere rivelata una strategia vincente. Perché poi io e mio fratello abbiamo scelto le nostre strade senza sentircicostretti a fare qualcosa oppure a compiacere magari i nostri genitorie e abbiamo raggiunto tutti e due diversi risultati. Lui è ha giocato nella Fiorentina. per diverso tempo che è una squadra in Italia molto, diciamo professionale e adesso si sta dedicando allo studio. E io ho fatto insomma la mia carriera sportiva e poi c'è mia mamma che invece è la è quella che si occupa dell'affetto della famiglia e della pizza, diciamo perché lei è stata sempre una pizzaiola e quindi diciamo che ci cura il mangiare.
Carole: My father definitely was the one passing on this passion for sports to me and to my brother actually, but without influencing our decisions. So that was really a winning strategy because we ended up picking our own journey autonomously, but with his support. And we both had my brother and I good results in sports. My brother even joined the Purintina, the soccer group. So that was not bad. And, now he's studying and on my mom's side. She was the one bringing the whole emotional affect and also importantly the food and that whole caring through the food.
Ilham Kadri: Well, thank you and it's great to hear. I'm sure your parents and all family are so proud of you. We are proud of you. Next time. I hope when we meet, I will hug you and maybe listen to “Let it Be” together because we have this common, you know, joy when we hear the Beatles. Thank you so much, Ambra, for joining me today. You have inspired me, us not only the young athletes who are listening, but also the business people like me because there is much we learn from your determination, your resilience, you know, you stay truthful to your own ambitions, right? In sports and beyond. And you are one of the best examples of winning of resilience and determination. And I know you'll continue to do amazing things. And we'll be by your side, right, supporting you and obviously, celebrating your common victories. Thank you.
Ambra Sabatini: Grazie. Grazie a voi. Sono onorata e felice di essere stata qui e di rappresentare una realtà come la vostra, in cui vi ponete questa missione di essere più inclusivi, veramente orgogliosa di far parte di questa squadra.
Carole: I'm very honored to have been invited to speak to you today. Thanks for having me. I'm happy to be part of this project with a company that really represents a strong ambition when it comes to diversity. Thank you.
Ilham Kadri: Thank you Ambra.
Ambra Sabatini: Ciao.