Compete in the Vatican World Championships in Athletics for the first time

The men’s field race of the Road Cycling World Championships will take place in Australia on Sunday. Among the names mentioned are the names of nine Dutch cyclists, but only eight of them will wear the Dutch national team jersey.

The exception is 40-year-old Rien Schuurhuis, who will represent the youngest country on Earth, the Vatican, in the competition. And with this, he makes the history of the sport, because the Vatican athlete has never participated in the official world championships of any sport before.

However, sport has been present in the life of the 44-hectare city-state for decades. Fifty years ago, they started a small independent football league to strengthen the Vatican’s employee community. However, since then the Holy See did not become a member of the international and European football federations, nor of the International Olympic Committee, so they did not participate in the world of elite sports.

However, a few years ago, the Vatican began to change this, and in addition to embracing semi-athletes, they have cautiously opened up to international sports federations. In 2019, a sports organization called Athletica Vaticana was founded, serving as a kind of National Olympic Committee, aiming to unify the sports of the Vatican. All citizens and employees of the Vatican, as well as their close relatives, can join the organization.

Schorhuis, born in Groningen, has also become a contender for the Atlética Vaticana, with his wife Chiara Burrow being Australia’s ambassador to the Vatican since 2020. Schorhuis is not the first athlete to compete for the dwarf country. Sicilian priest Vincenzo Buccio finished second in the 2019 Messina Marathon with a time of 2 hours 31 minutes. The 27-year-old daughter of a Vatican employee, Sarah Carnicelli started as a competing guest at this year’s Mediterranean Games in Algeria and finished ninth in the half marathon.

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“When I arrived in Rome in 2020, I was immediately drawn to the values ​​and spirit of the community at Atlética Vaticana. The fact that Pope Francis views sport as a means of encounter resonates deeply in my life experience. The language of sport is truly universal. It is an incredible honor for me to represent the colors of The Vatican is in Australia, and it’s my second home.” Schurwis, whose name doesn’t mean much even to those who follow the sport closely, said we’ve come this far with incredible teamwork and I can’t wait to take that team spirit into the competition.

The list of his achievements is quite modest. From the largest bicycle database, the From Pro Cycling Stats All that is known about him is that in 2016 he raced in Laos (Black Inc CT) and in 2018 on an Australian continental team (Oliver’s Real Food), mainly participating in smaller Asian and Oceanian competitions. Last year, he also took part in the Dutch Time Championship, where he finished 40th, more than 5 minutes behind the winner. by Tom Dumoulin.

The fact that Schuurhuis was able to reach the world championship is due to the fact that last fall the UCI – as the first major sporting organization – included the Vatican Cycling Club as one of its members. French Association President David LaPartint, on October 28, 2021 personally delivered The document proving the accession of Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi to the League, which oversees sports life in the Vatican. With this, Athletica Vaticana becomes the 200th official member of the UCI, who can therefore get a free pass for this year’s World Cup.

The professional director of the Vatican Cycling Team is former pro Valerio Anoli, who has ridden 12 races for three weeks during his long career and has been a mountain assistant for stars such as Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali. “We are going to Australia as ambassadors for His Holiness,” he said, adding that Pope Francis has personally blessed them.

UCI President David Lapartiente with the Atlética Vaticana cycling delegation: Emiliano Morbidelli (Manager), Simon Ciucetti (Secretary General) and Valerio Agnoli (External Delegate) in Wollongong, Australia on September 22, 2022 – Photo: Athletic Vaticana

“I prepared well for the World Cup. I live with my family in the historic center of Rome, and my training starts each time on one of the busiest streets, on the banks of the Teveri. I must admit that one of the most enjoyable parts of my training is the meandering in the middle of the traffic. Then , outside of Rome, I encircle Lake Bracciano and Lake Albano. I take my boys regularly for bike rides through the cobbled streets of the city centre. Among pedestrians, cars and motorbikes. It’s a great way to teach them spatial awareness and bike handling” Vatican News.

“Where I come from, cycling is part of everyday life. We go to work, school, shopping and church by bike. I bought a bike with my first salary. I don’t know exactly when my love for cycling as a sport was born, but I think it has always been in my heart. I used to support Miguel Indurain From Spain. I was really impressed by his modesty and humility, he has been an inspiration to so many young cyclists.”

As for the world championship, it would be great if Schuurhuis finished the 267 kilometer race. Schuurhuis also revealed who he would really like to see win: “I’ve always been a fan of the underdog: I would like a rider from a rising cycling nation to win. For example, Benyam Germay of Eritrea has already shown that he can do it.”

Most of the race was tough with very steep climbs It will happen in a circle In and around Wollongong, New South Wales. The two main contenders are Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel and his eternal rival, Belgian Wute van Aert. As the only Hungarian on the field, Walter Attila will also be present.

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