February 28th, 2014
This week, Deadspin wrote an article about husband-and-wife team Gary di Silvestri and Angelica Morrone, and their road to the Olympics. Morrone, 48, and di Silvestri, 47, competed in the Sochi Olympics under the banner of the Carribbean nation of Dominica. They came as skiers, the sole delegates – and, indeed, the first-ever delegates – to the winter Olympics from Dominica. XC Oregon elite team coach JD Downing accompanied them at the Games as their coach.
Di Silvestri and Morrone live in the United States, and are U.S. and Italian citizens, but received citizenship to Dominica reportedly as a gift for charitable work the couple did in the country. What work they did is not clear, but Deadspin is not shy about insinuating that the pair likely purchased “economic citizenship” for $175,000, plus a few thousand more in associated fees.
Deadspin pulls no punches in characterizing Morrone and di Silvestri as petty, vain, and wildly-wealthy yet morally bankrupt characters. It devotes multiple paragraphs to a scandal from the mid-1990’s involving Morrone’s role as a marketer for the car company Fiat in bribing, ironically, International Olympic Committee members to pick the Italian town of Sestriere for the 1997 World Ski Championships. Deadspin also devotes an entire article to their pre-Olympic pasts as tax-dodgers.
But FasterSkier is a ski website – so how about their results?
Both had to successfully qualify for the Olympics. Morrone’s biography on the FIS website shows that she finished all of her 14 starts, with her best result being fourth-from-last. Di Silvestri’s biography on the FIS website that out of nine starts he failed to finish two, was last place in five, second-to-last once, and fifth-from-last once, setting the couple’s high-water mark in their professional ski careers.
The Olympics did not go well for Morrone and di Silvestri. Morrone broke her nose – badly – in a crash during training on an icy portion of the course, ending her Olympic Games before they started. She would’ve been the oldest Olympic cross-country skier of all time (by seven years) had she done the 10 k. Di Silvestri only made it 300 meters in his race before collapsing due to a severe infection with bacterial gastroenteritis, ostensibly from drinking the water in Sochi. Evidently, he hadn’t gotten the memo.
The article also followed up on di Silvestri’s athletic background, as he explained to NBC OlympicTalk.
He told NBC he “was a two-time state wrestling champion” and that he “rowed for a national championship team at Georgetown.” Di Silvestri’s WordPress blog and LinkedIn pages state that he “earned … three New York Downstate Wrestling Championships while a student at Monsignor Farrell High School.”
Deadspin contacted Long Island wrestling aficionado Steve Meehan, “who has compiled a comprehensive history of the New York state championship meets from 1962 through last year [and] says his records show that di Silvestri ‘was never’ a state titlist. In fact, di Silvestri’s name doesn’t show up anywhere in Meehan’s database, which includes the top six finishers for every year in the last half-century.”
While di Silvestri, who attended a Catholic high school school, could have won a title at one of the tournaments between Catholic institutions, Meehan said, he wouldn’t actually be a state champion. There’s also no evidence that “downstate wrestling championships” exist anywhere, even outside New York.
According to a 2000 article in the Staten Island Advance, di Silvestri reportedly payed $100,000 for the naming rights to his high-school wrestling room, and when he was then inducted into Monsignor Farrell’s Hall of Fame, the article states he was a “Staten Island Advance All-Star” as a wrestler, not a city or state champion.
Di Silvestri also told NBC he “rowed for a national championship team” in college, which is reiterated by his LinkedIn resume, stating he “rowed for the national champion Hoya crew team.” Deadspin points out that “the NCAA holds a crew championship for women, but not for men.” There is a “de facto national championship” in college boating for men, the Intercollegiate Rowing Association [IRA] Championship Regatta, which dates back to 19th-century races on the Hudson River.
Di Silvestri went to Georgetown in the late-’80s, and no boat from Georgetown won an IRA championship during the years he was enrolled there. Georgetown’s crew coach at the time, Whit Fosburgh told Deadspin di Silvestri tried out for a spot in his team’s top boats, and while he was a well-liked, hard worker, di Silvestri didn’t posses the talent to row in the big regattas.
“Gary wasn’t in the boats that medaled those years,” Fosburgh said, “so it wouldn’t be accurate to say he was on the medal stand, getting the medals around his neck. But working as hard as he did for as little success as he had, that made him very popular.”
The couple’s Olympic ski coach, Downing, 47, recently told The Bulletin in Bend, Ore., that he’s known the di Silvestris for eight years and questioned the validity of the reports claiming they scammed the Olympics.
“I don’t know everything about their lives, but I don’t know everything about all the athletes I’ve worked with,” Downing said Tuesday. “But I do know when it comes to their participation in the Olympics, their qualification, what actually happened at the Olympics, everything was done by the book, everything was done legitimately. And anybody who says otherwise is fabricating.”