Sometimes the only thing more painful than training is not being able to do it.

 

Sport is good, everyone knows that.

Sport is good for physical and mental health.

But when it becomes your job, sooner or later, you’ll begin to see the flip side of the coin, the side you haven’t been told about as a child.

Professionalism forces you to be constantly focused on a new goal. To achieve it, you need to put in a great deal of effort and make sacrifices every day, because if you don’t, someone else will, and before you realise it, you’ll see that they are faster than you.

 

The paradox of time going backwards:

your past performances are living proof of your value, yet they count for nothing going forward;

while your future is an unknown quantity, and yet the only thing that counts.

 

Racing means going above and beyond.

Above and beyond everyone else, but especially yourself. It means surpassing yourself day after day, week after week – it’s exhausting, a fight to the death.

Every skier is constantly overtraining and placed under enormous media pressure. Balancing all the different aspects of our lives is the hardest thing ever.

It’s a vicious cycle, and when you’re in the eye of the storm, it’s difficult to jump out of it with perfect timing and take a breath of fresh air.

There are days when you wake up with such pain, all over your body, that the training session awaiting you seems like too much of a challenge, and, for a moment, you no longer understand why you keep doing it.

 

Then you remember that the next day, or the day after that, there is a race – there is always a race on the horizon, an important race on an iconic course, with important points for the final standings up for grabs. It’s precisely because of the standings that you train hard. In fact, you want to win the Cup you have always dreamed of.

Suddenly, the prospect of giving up training hurts more than your muscles and joints that have been creaking since your alarm clock rang.

 

So, the only thing more painful than training is not being able to do it.

 

Our sport is made of moments, instincts and emotions. Very often it’s the clarity of thought and the strength of mind that make the difference between success and failure.

I remember, for example, the World Championships at St. Moritz. During those two weeks of races, it felt like my head was underwater, with someone’s hand on it preventing me from getting out and breathing.

 

In the previous months, I had always been on the go, from one venue to another, from one hotel to another, from one plane to another, without ever being able to find some time for myself.

Without being able to take care of anything besides my profession.

Big events such as the World Championships and the Olympics always fill my heart with gratitude; It really is a great pleasure to be there, to be a part of them.

A simple, pure pleasure.

Today I like being on the world stage, but at the World Championships in St. Moritz, I was exhausted and struggled to express my skiing.

 

When you are on the circuit, it’s difficult to understand the secret of sport, to understand that sport is never just sport, it’s a way of thinking.

It’s an instrument of social cohesion, a point suspended in time and space attracting everyone’s attention.

When you understand its value, you feel part of a large group of people who seem to share a secret – having an experience is beautiful, but sharing it is even better.

 

Alpine skiing is my sport, but even before I started skiing, sport was everything to me.

I was a high-spirited child. I just couldn’t stay still, and I was always travelling around the country, or better, countries – France, my dad’s country, and Norway, my mum’s.

I assimilated both cultures and combined them to create my own.

I was always looking for a new sport, for another group to play with. So I have a long and quite diverse list of sports experiences.

 

I played tennis and soccer.

I took up combat sports such as boxing and judo.

I even did fencing for two years. Fencing is very popular in France, and there are many French fencing champions who have achieved amazing results.

My history teacher had been a great fencer and had made the national team. He was the one who convinced me to give it a try.

I fenced for two years, until I realised that I was growing up fast and I couldn’t have a foot in more than one camp any longer. So, I had to pick the sport on which I wanted to focus from then on.

 

I was 15 or 16 years old, and in the end, I chose alpine skiing.

It was the sport that thrilled me the most, the only one in which my results depended only on me, on how I skied. It wasn’t like in soccer, where it could be that I would play well but the team would lose anyway.

Or, even worse, the team would win, but I’d feel like my performance hadn’t matched up to those of my teammates.

 

In the end, I chose alpine skiing because skiing down snowy slopes is amazing, it gives you an adrenaline rush. Also, I was good at it.

In alpine skiing there are rankings, bibs and timekeeping, so if you are strong and fast, no one will be able to take anything away from you. It’s your own climb to the top, and you are the producer, director and also the lead actor of your own performance.

 

I always carry with me the wealth of experience I gained when I was younger from the other sports, which are all so different and yet so alike, because no matter whether you use a foil, a ball or a pair of skis, you always need to have the right balance, reaction time and explosive power.

Maybe that’s exactly the reason why I became the skier I am now.

Maybe that’s why I love technical disciplines as much as I love speed.

Maybe that’s why I remained open-hearted and curious.

 

At present we are in the midst of a revolution.

In 2020, our lives have been turned upside down and we have forgotten how important social occasions are and how they affect our well-being, our mood.

Sport is the most universal social activity of all, like music.

 

Sport is a universal language that we’re gradually forgetting, after being confined to our houses for months. And together with that language, we’re also forgetting about the values sport promotes – first of all, humility.

Because there is nothing better than sport at making you face the reality that life is made of ups and downs, and it’s what you learn in between that determines who you’ll be tomorrow.

 

It’s true, if sport is your job, sometimes, the only thing that is more painful than training is not being able to do it. But, luckily, sport is never just sport, it’s a group hug, something you share with others.

And if I had the chance to send a message, just one message, in this difficult time, I would say: be yourself and hold your head high, because there is more than one road that leads to Rome. All roads lead to Rome, each with its wonderful, privileged view of the beautiful, snowy mountains.

 

The Owl Post for Cortina 2021