Sara Curtis, the Italian swimmer breaking records and barriers

Sara Curtis, a teenage swimming sensation, is a strong individual who is unafraid of reactions to her mixed-race heritage, even though she will be one of Italy’s youngest athletes in the Paris Olympics.

The 17-year-old was reared by an Italian father and a Nigerian mother in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy, where race, ethnicity, and identity are major political battlegrounds. Her swimming prowess has drawn comparisons to former Olympic and world champion Federica Pellegrini.

Racist mistreatment of athletes has long been an issue in this nation, which is currently ruled by Giorgia Meloni’s far-right administration.

But confident Curtis, a four-time gold medal winner at the European junior championships, tells AFP she is unflustered by being a rare black face in her sport.

“I consider myself lucky as I’ve never had anything like that (racist abuse) happen to me,” Curtis says.

“But if I were to ever meet someone who saw what I am as a problem I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it. It wouldn’t make a big difference to me because it’s not my problem, it’s theirs.

“If you look at my sport there is this element regarding black athletes. There just aren’t that many of them.

“But honestly it’s not something I’m too bothered by. They can say what they want, that I’m a black girl, that it’s strange. But it’s strange for you, not for me.”

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