Filippo Mondelli: “I’ll be back stronger than before”
This time last year Italian rower, Filippo Mondelli was in the thick of the international rowing season. But then bone cancer struck.
In late March Mondelli had surgery to remove an aggressive primary bone tumor in his leg. Still in the early phases of the healing process, Mondelli talked to World Rowing about the road to recovery, the Olympic Games in 2021 and the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It will be long, but you are strong.” A couple months ago, Luca Rambaldi left a heartfelt message to his teammate Mondelli, just before the Italian rower was about to have surgery. The lengthy rehabilitation process has now started.
On March 26, Mondelli underwent five-hour surgery to remove a 25cm piece of his femur and knee and install a new-generation titanium prosthesis.
“The surgery went well and the doctor is happy with the results,” says Mondelli who has now an 80cm scar on his leg.
Mondelli is now on the long road to full recovery. Still in chemotherapy, he sees his physio at home twice per week and has started conditioning, to make sure his muscles will be strong enough when he walks again.
“Then I will start a new therapy, which will last nine months, to make sure the tumor disappears completely,” says Mondelli.
The 2017 European Champion in the men’s double sculls has also had to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I was tested negative (for Covid-19) several times before my surgery,” Mondelli says. “The situation wasn’t the best but things are getting better now. We need to be careful, but I am confident everything will be alright. We are a great country.”
The sense of pride in Italy is very strong – so is the camaraderie between Italian rowers. Mondelli is in contact with his teammates, via video calls and messages, on a daily basis and he keeps positive even when talking about Olympic dreams.
“Postponing the Olympics was the best decision, for the health of the athletes and for the sports community,” says Mondelli. “The most important thing is to guarantee a safe environment for the preparation of the Olympic Games. I know my Italian friends are training hard even if it is hard to get the right motivation when you are alone at home. But I know they have a great goal in mind and they will continue their preparation as they have always done.”
Mondelli is hoping to make a strong return and have a big impact on his crew when he returns. He is doing everything in his power to accomplish his goal. Mondelli knows the path to recovery requires a lot of work, time, and energy combined with perseverance and a positive mental outlook.
“Stay hungry, stay foolish is my motto right now,” says Mondelli, who hopes being able to row soon. “If my condition is fine, I will do my best to participate next year in the Tokyo Olympics. It will be hard but I will give it my best shot. I believe in myself and I know that I will be back, stronger than before.”