21/11/2020   The memory of Ernesto Canto by Maurizio Damilano




The sad news of Ernesto Canto's death makes 2020 a particularly painful year for the world race walk.
In the spring Hartwig Gauder left us and in the autumn, a few days later, Jordi Llopart and Ernesto Canto.
With all three I shared an important piece of my career.
I met Ernesto Canto for the first time in Rome. It was 1976, the Giro di Roma was held, the final race of the season at the beginning of November.
We fought side by side on the ups and downs of Villa Borghese and from that moment on we would never be separated.
In 1977, with Armando Zambaldo and Roberto Buccione, accompanied by Gianni Corsaro, we spent 3 weeks at high altitude in Mexico City for the "race walking week".
Trainings and then some races. There I had the opportunity to get to know him better.
Every day we trained together with Prof. Hausleber's group of walkers and Canto was a bit like the chick of all of them. He was 18 but he was already a full part of that team.
Funny guy, friendly at times a bit braggart, but nicely, as Central Americans know how to be.
Canto did not participate in the Moscow Olympics despite having already achieved very important times. In front of him he had “holy monsters” like Daniel Bautista, Domingo Colin and Raul Gonzales.
Our first big challenge took place in Valencia in 1981. World Cup of race walking. He won I was sixth.
At the World Championships in Helsinki I did not express myself at my best (seventh) and he won in a daring final where, after taking the wrong path on the way back to the stadium, he recovered vehemently by catching up with Josef Pribilinec and entering the Olympic stadium as a winner.
He repeated himself in Los Angeles the following year, winning a difficult and tight race up to the last meters (only 13 seconds separated him first from me, third).
Certainly the years from 1981 to 1984 were his best years, but he continued to hold the role of great interpreter of the 20km even in the following years, even if he was no longer able to get on the podium in major events.
I remember well with how much determination he faced the 20km test in New York in Central Park. Ready to go and immediately set a furious pace. He went to 10 km under 39 minutes (for that time a stratospheric time), and if it is true that he then paid the effort by finishing fifth, it was however the demonstration that the great champion had not lowered the flag.
In Rome, a few months later, he did not finish the race, as well as at the Seoul Olympics due to disqualification.
In 1989 we met again in the World Cup in Hospitalet (I was sixth, he was thirteenth), but the week after in the Cantones Grand Prix in La Coruna he beat me by a few seconds, dropping just under 39 minutes on the 10km that I finished in 39:03.
I remember that week with great pleasure. Giorgio (my brother), Canto and  myself were guests of the organization directly after the Hospitalet race. We always trained together and had the opportunity to spend a lot of time together.
We discussed many things and he was very sorry about how the previous two years had been negative, but he always had that positive swagger that led him not to give up, rather to see the next goals as a protagonist already in front of him.
In the following years he was no longer able to realize what he wanted. In 1990 he again won the American Cup, but did not participate in the 1991 World Championships, and in Barcelona 1992, his last Olympics (as well as for me), he was 29th.
I have summarized 16 years of career (from 1976 to 1992), because it is his history, but also mine, indeed, our history. The story of a sporting parallel life, of a relationship of friendship and, above all, of esteem, which has always accompanied us, even after the sporting season.
I met him many times after 1992, on the occasion of the Olympics, the World Cup, international competitions.
There was always a warm greeting. A hug as Mexicans usually do, with a pat on the back at the time of shaking. A sign that I always thought was a symbol of friendship.
Now I hug you tightly, I hit you on the back and I wish you to rest happy "champion".
Maurizio Damilano