It was probably because he looked cheerful all the same, because he didn’t seem to suffer from it. That was probably the reason why we dared to ask him how he had gotten his name.
It has to be said that his was not a case as dramatic as that of ‘A Boy Named Sue‘, but still. His name was weird, for an Italian. An Italian is normally called after a saint, regardless of how holy that baby might turn out to be. Or, otherwise, Caesar might modestly do as a model too. As a last resort – maybe if your parents don’t like Romans – you could end up as Hannibal. Hannibal is still alright, but a name like his one… No. Certainly not back then.
But we were right. He wasn’t upset to have a name like that and he told us how it had come about.
He was born at a special moment in a small village high up in Italy’s Dolomite mountains, apart from the fact, of course, that any moment of his birth would have been very special indeed.
As luck would have it, the day after he had first seen the light of day, the cycling heroes of the Giro – the Tour of Italy – would zip through their village. Or, rather, they would pant through it, slave through it, just before the zipping.
Now his parents had sworn an oath: their son would carry the name of the first hero to arrive at the top. For them, that was hardly a gamble. They, and all the villagers with them, were already sure who it was going to be. It could be only one man: Felice Gimondi. That suited his parents fine, as their newborn little one had filled them with felicity.
On the big day, the second one in a row, they were a touch nervous all the same. There wasn’t a small chance, it couldn’t be that…? No.
They heard sounds, approaching. The first cars, the first motorcycles. They peered into the distance. First they saw the crown. Then the head. A Belgian head. It was Merckx. It was Eddy.
Who said that Italians never keep their promises? We grinned at Eddy, Eddy grinned at us. It was clear, Merckx had done him no harm. After all, Eddy was felice.
© Joost Overhoff