Among these, one of the more exciting announcements is the introduction of new sports: karate, competitive rock climbing, skateboarding, baseball/softball and surfing.
The move aims to bring younger competitors to the Olympics while also giving these new sports more popularity and recognition.
Despite the limited number of places available and the difficult qualifying rounds, Italy will try and qualify some of its athletes for surfing competitions, which is why the National Italian Olympic Committee has decided to extend this opportunity to surfers of Italian citizenship living overseas.
One of these athletes is Claire “Bevo” Bevilacqua, a young Italo-Australian who finished in 21st place in the female rankings of the World Surf League Qualifying Series.
While Claire was born and raised near the beaches of Margaret River, her father originally came from San Felice Circeo, in the region of Lazio, where he now lives and where Claire stays for a few months during the year, usually at the end of summer “when the waves are best”.
Claire’s family has been linked to the sea for several generations.
“My father is part of the Italian diving group while my mother comes from a family of fishermen,” she says.
However, Claire’s passion for surfing was almost born by accident.
“One day I found a surfboard on the side of the road among some rubbish bins, and I thought it would be cool to learn how to surf,” she recalls.
Thanks to a piece of rubbish that nobody wanted anymore and a childhood of riding skateboards, she learned to surf on her own, becoming the world-renowned athlete we know today.
Claire has celebrated numerous victories over the course of her career, but there have also been some difficult moments.
Around a year ago, she suffered neck injuries during a surfing accident, which she describes as “a traumatic experience”.
“I know that this is a delicate part of my body that I will always have to work on and be mindful of, but I don’t think of giving up now, especially after having lived some of the best years of my career,” she says.
Accidents and the risk of suffering permanent damage are Claire’s biggest fears, as she would not be able to imagine a life without all of the activities she loves so much.
“That is why I live a very healthy lifestyle and take care of my body,” she explains.
During her rehabilitation phase, Claire practised yoga and meditation, two key aspects of the surfing culture, along with ecology, eating organic food and focusing on everything that is good for the body.
Surprisingly, Claire doesn’t seem to be scared of sharks.
“I love sharks and I try to play an active part in the battle against their extinction,” she says.
In fact, Claire works with different institutions, such as the University of Western Australia, to protect different marine species and their environment.
Claire’s support for the Italian surfing team began many years ago and is the result of her proactive and sociable nature.
“I am very connected to my Italian origins and every time I go to San Felice, I go to the local beaches and I promise to surf there too,” she says.
“[Over time] I have met many athletes and managed to build a good reputation for myself.”
Given the fact that the Italian surfing scene is particularly small, it was easy for her to enter into a contract with the Italian Olympic Federation and to maintain a lasting relationship with them over the years.
Despite the Italian waves not having anything on Margaret River, Claire admits that she still manages to enjoy herself in San Felice, so much so, that she does not feel the need to visit other Italian beaches.
“I am very attached to this place; I like the vibe and the atmosphere,” she says.
“It is my home, and to surf you just have to learn to recognise the best moments, how the current works and to understand when the right wind is blowing.”
Out of all of the places she has visited for both competitions and for personal travel, her favourite is Hawaii.
“I love the force of the waves, the warm water and the tropics; I love the island’s atmosphere and the connection I feel to the place,” she says.
“I found the waves to be more difficult and scary, even though the waves of Margaret River are more challenging for surfers.”
According to Claire, the introduction of surfing among other new Olympic sports can represent both an opportunity and a threat, especially for Australia, which has some of the best athletes in the world.
“Japan is really strong, not to mention athletes from other countries like Peru and Costa Rica,” she says.
“The problem is that there will be few places available and the selection will be individual, regardless of the country.”
As for the Italian team, Claire admits that “it is very strong, but should work more on concentration and determination”.
“I think these are its biggest weaknesses,” she adds.
On the horizon for Claire are the 2019 and 2020 ISA World Surfing Games, the Pan-American Games this year, and the Toyko Olympics, should she qualify.
Fingers crossed for Bevo!