Elia Dagani, a USI student at Chengdu World University Games

Photo by Mirjam Leutwyler
Photo by Mirjam Leutwyler
Photo by Mirjam Leutwyler
Photo by Mirjam Leutwyler
Photo by Mirjam Leutwyler
Photo by Mirjam Leutwyler

Institutional Communication Service

25 September 2023

Born and raised in Ticino, Elia Dagani graduated with a Bachelor's degree in economics from Università degli Studi di Milano and is now attending the second year of the Master's degree in Management. He is one of a dozen elite sportsmen and women who attend Università della Svizzera italiana. 


Elia Dagani, how was the World University Games? 

Fantastic. The atmosphere is that of the Olympics, with athletes from various disciplines. We are all there to compete, but in addition to the tension of competition, there is also the desire to get to know each other, to meet people who come from different countries and who, just like at the Olympics, are all brought together in a village reserved for the athletes. There was also an opening ceremony with a parade of delegations from each country and a great show. Chinese President Xi Jinping was also present at the ceremony, which I imagine is not easy to witness and shows how much China cares about this event. 


Compared to the Bachelor in Milan, how is the coexistence of study and training at USI? 

USI impressed me positively. During my stay in Milan, I had a good experience overall. However, even though the number of students in my course was limited, it was challenging to establish a personal connection with the professor. Having direct contact with the professor is crucial for organising training and competitions. At USI, I was unable to take an exam due to my absence for the World Cup. However, I was able to arrange an alternative exam by directly communicating with the professor.


When did you start fencing? 

I started fencing at a very young age - just five years old. Most children begin their fencing journey at around 8-9 years old, but I was inspired by Zorro and wanted to start earlier. Despite my family not having any experience in fencing, we used to watch Zorro tapes, which fueled my passion even more. Though my coach suggested that I wait and do a trial lesson, I persisted and started at an amateur level. Eventually, I participated in my first competitions, won my first medals, and even had the opportunity to play in the Swiss national selection.


Roughly how many hours do you dedicate to training? 

During a relatively busy period, you may have to work up to 20 hours a week, with two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. Although it can be challenging to balance work and studies, with proper organisation, discipline, and motivation, it is possible to manage it effectively.


Up to what age can you practise fencing? 

Fencing can be a long-lived sport, with the option to fence professionally up to the age of 35. One world champion even won a medal when he was 40. However, the longevity of a fencer's career is heavily dependent on their playing style. Those who rely on physical strength may see their career end sooner than those who have a different approach. 

In Switzerland, it's difficult to make a living as a fencer. While active, fencers may have a few sponsors, but it's not enough to sustain them financially. That's why most fencers pursue other careers in parallel, to avoid being left with no income once their sporting career is over.