Woman Who Knocked Down Pope Already in Training for Next Year

Pope tackler says her chances look solid for a strong showing in 2010.

USANNA Maiolo, the 25-year-old Swiss-Italian tackler who knocked down Pope Benedict XVI before the Christmas Eve Mass at St. Peter's Basilica, says she's "feeling really good" about her chances in 2010, and has wasted no time getting back into training for the annual event.

Speaking through a translator, the barricade jumper and pope tackler said that this year's Christmas Eve papal takedown "was my best performance ever," citing her less stellar attempt in 2008.

"I just wasn't mentally where I wanted to be in '08," admitted Ms. Maiolo, "but this year was great. I was able to jump the barricade and tackle His Holiness in record time. I was in a good place, very centered. But next year will be even better. I have a new trainer, and I'm much more focused and confidant."

Trainers say that the concentration required of the pope-tackling athlete is intense and requires the patience of a saint.

"These athletes are largely unsung, but once a year," explained pope tackle trainer Jerry Lindstrom. "While you and I are moving on from our Christmas festivities, these dedicated athletes are right back in the gym on December 26 and every day thereafter until the next Christmas Eve, when they finally get to show the world what they're made of. Talk about deferred gratification."

At 25, Ms. Maiolo is at the peak of her pope-tackling form. Mr. Lindstrom thinks she's got "a good four or five more years before she needs to retire or take up a less rigorous sport, such as bishop tripping."

Italians are used to seeing their beloved pope tackler jumping over the ruins of Rome and pushing tourists to the ground. "I think it's better for me to train under real-world conditions," said Ms. Maiolo. "The gym is great for weight lifting and such, but nothing can replace human beings for the tackle."

When pressed for details about her 2010 pope takedown strategy, Ms. Maiolo became reticent, but did hint that the crowd at St. Peter's Basilica should not expect her to wear a red sweatshirt again.

"All I'm going to say is that red is not the color you'll see when I jump the barricade in 2010. I want the security detail and all my fans to be truly surprised when the Supreme Pontiff goes down in a holy heap."

"Surprise is the entertainment element of this great sport," noted Jerry Lindstrom. "Without it, you're a rank amateur."