Genre: Documentary | Produced In: 2013 | Story Teller’s Country: Italy
Synopsis: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Standing alone in the middle of an empty baseball diamond, a man is caught up in the memories of a long sporting career. Images unfold of baseball games he starred in: victories with the Italian National team and Nettuno Baseball, the many home runs he scored for Italy, the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.
Thus begins the story of the life of catcher Tony Lonero, 53-years old, an Italo-American, ex-baseball champion (72 games with the National team, participation in one World Cup and an Olympics, a European win). Today he is a long distance cyclist despite being afflicted with multiple sclerosis since 2001.
Lonero retired from baseball in the 1990’s, but sports continued to be part of his life and he soon dedicated himself to cycling and racing. In 2001, after training for a triathlon, he suddenly felt faint and fell. He tried to get up, but his right arm wouldn’t move. In the following hours his physical condition worsened. He had difficulty speaking and moving. After several days in the hospital he received the diagnosis: multiple sclerosis (MS).
This is a degenerative disease of unknown origins that attacks the nervous system. The neurologist taking care of Lonero, Dr. Ugo Nocentini (Santa Lucia Foundation, Rome) details Lonero’s condition: his form of multiple sclerosis is relapsing-re-missive. Periodically, Tony Lonero suffers from acute, sudden attacks and despite five spinal lesions, after receiving the necessary medicine he is able to recuperate motor capacity.
Before long, the shock of facing such a disease changes to the will to beat it, but how? How to get back on his feet? After months of immobility, after cures and rehabilitation, Lonero can walk again. As a sportsman, he suffers his new condition, but he wants to get back to his normal life. He decides to get on a bicycle. Day after day, mile by mile, he realizes that pedaling is making him better and as his strength grows so does the will to fight against MS.
His bicycle becomes a kind of ally, a sort of medicine for body and mind. But riding on his own is not enough. In 2003 he decides to dare his “adversary” and undertake the impossible: participate in the Paris-Brest-Paris, a historical, non-stop bicycling race of 1,200 km non stop. This non professional race has been held in France since 1891 and must be completed in 90 hours maximum. Because of its allure and difficulty it is considered the Olympics of cycling.
August 2007, Paris. Before leaving for Brest, Tony Lonero explains his personal vision of life, which he calls the “ride to finish” philosophy: “Every one of us has a goal in life. It doesn’t matter when you cross the finish line; what’s important is reaching it.” Lonero finishes his second Paris-Brest-Paris within the allotted time.
In the winter he returns to the United States, to Pittsburgh, to re-discover his roots. He meets his first baseball coach, Bill Deem, also afflicted with MS. He pays tribute to the victims of the September 11 crash of United Airlines flight 93. At the end of his trip he knows that he has become a better man, capable of accepting that he will never be cured of MS, but vowing to himself that he will never give in, come what may.