How snowboarder Michela Moioli came back from major injury to Olympic gold
From an early age, Michela Moioli knew that she wanted to make the Olympic Games.
“I grew up with something like an energy in me.
“(It said), ‘You can do whatever you want.’”
It wasn’t long before the Italian team contacted the talented teenager to join their snowboard cross team.
“In that moment, my eyes started shining because when he said ‘Olympic Games’ – (it was) like my dream was really coming true. I will remember that day for the rest of my life.”
Her dreams of taking home an Olympic medal at her first Games were shattered – in fact, her whole career was on line.
She crashed in the final at Sochi 2014 and tore a cruciate ligament in her knee.
Moioli made it back from injury to take gold at PyeongChang 2018 and is now one of the stars of the Olympic Channel’s Against All Odds series.
The Big Start
Moioli secured her first World Cup win in Sochi – in 2013 – just a year away from the Olympic Games.
It was her first year on tour and, at once, the then 17-year-old started to dream of Olympic glory.
Perhaps though, the win came too early.
“I didn't do everything to prepare for the Olympic Games in Sochi.
“I was younger. I was trying to live the dream. I didn't care a lot about training.”
Podcast: How to come back from career-threatening injury with Michela Moioli
Podcast: How to come back from career-threatening injury with Michela MoioliItalian Michela Moioli felt nervous ahead of her first Olympic snowboard cross final at Sochi 2014. Those nerves turned to despair as her medal hopes were crushed when she crashed heavily. Aged just 18, her career was in jeopardy after suffering a torn cruciate ligament in her knee. But she dedicated herself to making a comeback and four years later at PyeongChang 2018 she won gold. We spoke to Michela about pasta, post-Olympic blues and Beijing 2022.
Olympic Dream Shattered
Despite her attitude to training, at the age of 18, Moioli lined up in the Olympic final in snowboard cross at Sochi 2014.
"I remember my legs shaking… and when the camera came over me - I smiled but inside I was really nervous.
"In snowboard cross, anything can happen.
"It was true that I could get a medal, but I wasn't sure."
The lack of confidence initially seemed misplaced in the race itself.
From a difficult starting gate, the teenager moved into fourth place and looked to be heading into third when disaster struck.
She crashed and tore her cruciate ligament.
“It hurt a lot… like a knife in the knee.”
The long road back
It wasn’t just physical pain that Moioli felt after that Olympic disappointment.
“It was not just a pain in the leg but a pain in the mind and in the heart.”
Little by little, she regained fitness and vowed to come back stronger at PyeongChang 2018.
And, sure enough, Moioli made it back into the Italian Olympic squad.
"On the plane (on the way to South Korea) - I lay down in my comfortable chair.
"I just thought, 'I am going there and I am just going to do what I love: snowboarding.’”
Michela felt more prepared for the Olympic experience at PyeongChang.
She made the final again and, this time, she came out on top.
“I crossed the finish line and I started crying - all the emotions came out like a river."
"It was a relief. I was like. ‘I can't believe that I really did this. I won the gold. I am the new Olympic (champion).'"
But the moment left an unexpected concern.
“I worry that I will never feel that same emotion at another time in my life ever again. Maybe I will feel emotion, a different emotion. But not like that. (It was) so strong.”
Women's Snowboard Cross Finals - Snowboard | PyeongChang 2018 Highlights
Women's Snowboard Cross Finals - Snowboard | PyeongChang 2018 HighlightsThe Women's Snowboard Cross Finals event took place on the 16th February 2018
Her feet had hardly touched the ground in Italy before she was shipped off to a huge party in her hometown of Alzano Lombardo.
"It is very beautiful when everybody joins (you for) the victory. Your friends. Your family. Your city."
Thousands turned out for the bash organised by the town's mayor Camillo Bertocchi.
But after the celebrations, Michela struggled to come to terms with what had happened in South Korea.
"I had a really difficult month. After all the awards, I said, ‘What now? What are you going to do?’
"I really felt alone. I started training a lot over summer. No rest.
"Before the Olympics, I always wanted to be stronger - I was on top.
"But you can't always be on the top. You have to go down. You have to accept it. And now - step by step - I am coming back."
The new season is barely upon us but Moioli believes that winning Olympic gold has taught her that winning isn’t everything.
"It's not just about the result – it's also about myself and my feelings."
But don't think for a second that the Italian has lost her fighting spirit.
She is already dreaming of Beijing 2022.
"I think that I will try to use the years (leading to) the next Olympics to get better and to win to grow up and to be a better person and athlete.
"I am just living my life (but) the next goal is Beijing."
Michela Moioli was this week’s guest on the Olympic Channel Podcast.
Each week we find the biggest athletes and speakers athletes to talk about the Olympics.