Rapids’ Italian Import
IRC Champion Sprinter Contu is an Exchange Student from Italy
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Grand Rapids track coach Darrin Hofstad heard the stories.
“You hear a lot of stories,” he said. “You never believe anything until you see it with your own eyes.
For Hofstad, seeing was believing when it came to Andrea Contu.
“I knew the kid was special,” said Hofstad. “In the fall, he was out on the track every day working on his craft.”
Andrea is a foreign exchange student. Last summer, he left his home in Sardinia, an island of the coast of Italy and came to America. More specifically, Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
“I knew it was going to be very different from what i was used to,” said Contu. “I was very excited and eager to experience it.
Sardinia is a long way from Grand Rapids both geographically as well as culturally. Andrea admits he faced an adjustment period when he arrived. For instance, the language barrier was tough to overcome at first.
“I was barely able to speak when I first came here,” he said. “Living here, it’s a learning process.”
Andrea also had to adjust to the weather. You see, the temperature rarely gets below 32 degrees in Sardinia.
“I never saw anything like that,” he said. “I was shocked, but I adjusted and it didn’t stop me from doing anything here. It didn’t take off anything from the experience.”
One place Andrea didn’t have to adjust was the track.
“As soon as i hit the track I felt at home,” Contu said. “I just wanted to compete and show everybody what I could do.”
“he first time i got to see him run was at the Bemidji Indoor meet,” added Hofstad. He ended up breaking the record in the 60 meter dash. It was a great time, it was a [personal record] for him. It was nice to see the work he put in the fall paid off.”
Andrea will soon go back to Italy, but he’ll leave with friends and memories that will last a lifetime.
“I think it will be much harder to come back to Italy than it was arriving here,” said Contu. “I found a great community in Grand Rapids. Now I see this place as my home and I’m sure it will be hard to leave it.”