Durante trades in hills of Palo Alto for those of Rome
David Durante, who won the 2007 U.S. all-around title and was the 2008 Olympic alternate, is embarking on a new journey, moving from the hills of San Francisco to the seven hills of Rome, Italy. The Garwood, N.J., native takes off for Rome later this week, with plans to live there for at least a year and travel through Europe. He took time away from his preparations to participate on a panel at the Chicago Summit on Sport and Sustainability, hosted by Chicago 2016, and to attend Athlete Advisory Council for the U.S. Olympic Committee.
The Chicago Summit on Sport and Sustainability is part of Chicago 2016's vision for the first Blue-Green Games and brought together prestigious international leaders in environment and sport to discuss innovation, policy and best practices in sustainability and sport. Durante participated in "Athletes and Sustainability," a panel that focused on the role athletes and athletic organizations can play in addressing environmental issues affecting sport. Along with Durante, the panel featured noted Arctic explorer Will Steger and Olympic soccer star Brandi Chastain. The panel was moderated by Natalie Spilger, the founder of GreenLaces and currently a professional soccer player.
"It was very humbling to be on a panel with Will Steger, someone who is so distinguished in his field, has traveled to the Arctic and knows so much about climate change, and Brandi, who has also done a lot for women's sports," said Durante.
"The whole conference was about sport and sustainability. The audience included representatives from environmental companies, USOC officials and IOC members so people who could make a difference in world of sports and sustainability were there."
Durante orchestrated a green effort at the U.S. Olympic Training Center during his stint as a member of the resident gymnastics program. He attended Stanford University with Spilger and is currently a member of advisory board for GreenLaces, an organization dedicated to getting athletes involved in environmental matters. More than 200 athletes have already committed to help with environmental issues where they live.
"Natalie played soccer at Stanford when I was there," said Durante. "GreenLaces is worthwhile and something athletes should check out. Dhani Jones is one of 200 athletes who are already participating. Interested athletes should go to greenlaces.org, read about it, sign up, get a pair of green shoe laces and be part of the solution. This is a great way for athletes to get involved and show their support for environmental issues."
From Stanford to Rome
The 2002 Stanford grad began working with the men's team as an assistant coach in October 2008. The Cardinal squad had a great season that culminated with winning the men's NCAA team championship.
"I waited for that moment (a national championship) for a long time," said Durante. "I was never able to win the NCAA title as an athlete at Stanford, and I always hoped to be part of a NCAA championship team. To come back and be part of it, especially coming right after I stopped competing, we felt more like peers, and I was able to share being a part of that team, which was really nice."
Part of Durante's coaching responsibilities, which wrapped up on Aug. 31, included working with his former teammate David Sender, who retired from competition at the conclusion of the 2009 Visa Championships.
Durante also is a gifted artist who specializes in pencil drawings. Last year, he auctioned off a series of gymnastics-related images to raise funds for charity.
"I am still drawing," said Durante. "I have some commissions for art that I will work on while I am in Rome. Several of them are landscapes and houses so I am branching out from human shapes. I hope to get some additional commissions to supplement my nonexistent income at the moment. Art is a way to make extra cash and continue to do something I love."
The move to Italy has been in the planning for several years. Durante, who has dual citizenship with the United States and Italy, has family in Rome and spent summers there with his family while he was growing up. Conversational in Italian, Durante is eager to discover Rome and other points of interest in Italy and Europe, as well as possibly pursue some business opportunities. His travel plans also include visiting London and attending the 2009 World Gymnastics Championships.
"This is a year of my life where I am going to figure out what I want to do next," said Durante. "I will stay involved in gymnastics through my AAC role. I've done gymnastics for 23 amazing years and I will have the memories of those years for life. I want to stay involved in it in the future, but moving away gives me the opportunity to see how others around the world live. I've had a fascination with that since I started traveling with USA Gymnastics. To live in another part of the world, to work there and experience it will be incredible. I know I was lucky to grow up in the United States and I think I will appreciate it even more after this year.
"I never thought of gymnastics as the only thing in my life but as a part of it. I know I have other things to do, and I want to see how I can contribute in other ways. This year in Italy will help me solidify what those contributions might be."
Durante's gymnastics career included winning the 2007 U.S. all-around and parallel bars titles and two Winter Cup all-around crowns; competing on the 2007 World Championships Team that finished fourth; earning a team bronze medal at the 2003 and 2007 Pan American Games, as well as the silver all-around medal at the 2003 Pan Ams; and competing in eight U.S. national championships, two U.S. Olympic Trials and numerous international competitions.
"I have no regrets about my gymnastics career," said Durante. "I gave every ounce of my being in and out of the gym. It's how I trained because I wanted to make sure that when it was all said and done, I could look back and have no regrets. And I don't have any. I wouldn't change anything that I have done, decisions I've made or how I trained. I am very content with where I am. Once I made my retirement official, I can guarantee it will be my only one from the sport. I am more like Tiki Barber than Brett Favre."