Olympic roots run deep for Victoria brothers

Segato family remembers grandfather Guglielmo's two medal wins for cycling at 1932 Los Angeles summer games

Massimo Segato settles in for his usual afternoon coffee break at Macchiato Caffe on Broad Street, a welcome reprieve after managing the lunch rush a few blocks away at Italian Food Imports.

As an avid sports fan, Segato grew up playing basketball for Camosun College and like many dedicated Seattle Seahawks fans, felt a life-long sense of disappointment vanish with the team’s Superbowl win earlier this month.

“We’ve been Seahawks fans since ’82 when they beat the Miami Dolphins in the divisional. We finally got one,” he says.

But it’s the Olympics buzz of late that conjures up a particularly proud sporting moment in the Segato family tree.

Massimo’s grandfather, Guglielmo Segato, was 27 when he won both gold and silver medals in cycling for Italy at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

A framed photo of Guglielmo hangs prominently behind the counter at the family’s deli, while the Segatos keep the prized medals in a bank vault for safe keeping.

“I’ve been told there aren’t many medals left from those games,” Massio says. “It was between the First and Second World War, so a lot of the medals were melted down (for the war effort). But I don’t know how much is folklore or fact.”

Massimo can’t say what happened to the steel-frame, two-gear Bianchi racing bike – “it’s the oldest bicycle company in the world” – used by his grandfather to achieve the 100-kilometre time-trial wins.

Competitive cycling in 1932 was much different than today’s road races, Massimo says, where athletes can now feed off one another’s energy and utilize the slipstreams of their competitors.

Instead, Olympic cyclists battled their own will on open, empty roads.

“My grandfather won the gold medal in the team time trial and the silver in the individual time trial,” Massimo says. “It wasn’t what we think of as a road race today.”

Massimo and brother Maurizio last saw their grandfather in 1976 – he passed away in 1979 – when the Segatos immigrated from a small town in Treviso to the rocky shores of Vancouver Island.

It’s now been 29 years since the family took over Italian Food Imports, still in its original location at 1114 Blanshard St., and the brothers have since opened two thriving cafés in the downtown core with business partner, Sean Sloan.

“It’s a family business,” Massimo says. “When my parents were away on a trip to Italy (in 1996), we started dabbling with new ideas, and decided to give it a two-year window to see what could happen. That was 18 years ago.”

What will Massimo and his sports-loving family be watching most closely during the Sochi Olympics?

“Hockey is the big one, but the beauty of the Olympics is the sports you never get to focus on come to the forefront, and then there’s the stories behind the sport,” he says.

The Segatos keep a daily Italy-Canada medal count on display at their deli for a bit of tongue-in-cheek competition.

“If Canada and Italy are playing each other, we’ll see,” Massimo says. “But we’re Canadian, we’ll be cheering for Canada all the way.”