Italy’s former European indoor champion Donato Sabia has died from coronavirus aged 56, days after the pandemic claimed the life of his father, the Italian athletics federation (Fidal) announced on Wednesday.
Sabia won 800m gold at the 1984 championships in Gothenburg, and finished fifth and seventh at the distance at the 1984 Los Angeles and 1988 Seoul Olympics respectively.
He had been hospitalised in intensive care for some days in his native Potenza, in the southern Basilicata region.
“A tragedy within a tragedy, Donato was a person you couldn’t help but love,” said Fidal president Alfio Giomi confirming Sabia’s death days after that of his father from Covid-19.
Sabia was president of Fidal’s regional committee in Basilicata.
The former world indoor champion was also loved in the Maltese track and field community after he had spent several years filling the role of coach within the Malta Amateur Athletics Association.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Donato Sabia,” Edwin Attard, the MAAA president, told the Times of Malta.
“Our association has fond memories of Donato. He was a great man who gave a huge contribution to Maltese athletics. He had started working with our association in the 1990s through the Olympic solidarity scheme and he worked with some our top athletes in the time, such as Fabio Spiteri, Mario Bonello and Xandru Grech, just to name a few.
“Apart from an excellent coach, he was one of the stars of Italian athletics, reaching two successive 800 metres Olympic finals in the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and in Seoul four years later.
“As MAAA we send our deep condolences to the Italian federation as they lost a very influential figure.”
On his part, Fabio Spiteri said that he held fond memories of the time he spent with Sabia.
“Donato was a very important figure in my track and field career,” Spiteri said.
“Through his guidance I managed to win back-to-back bronze medals in the Games of the Small States in Europe in 1999 and 2001. He was part of our family for many years and after his departure I remained in touch with him.”
Spiteri said that the COVID-19 virus had been very harsh on Sabia’s family.
“Donato had just lost his father a few days ago and now it claimed his life too,” Spiteri said.
“His mother is also in hospital, so it has been a very difficult time for his family.”
Spiteri said that he feels huge pride to have been guided by such a talented athlete and coach.
“Donato was a top athlete, no doubt,” Spiteri said.
“In his career he won the gold medal in the World Indoor Championships and was the holder of Italy’s record in the 800 metres.
“It was a huge honour for me to be guided by such a great coach and more importantly a great person.”