Saturday, January 19, 2013

Getting to know: Daniela Merighetti

In a cold and slightly cloudy evening, among the streets of Cortina, a very smiling Daniela Merighetti welcomes me in the hall of Savoia's hotel, where she sleeps with the rest of the Italian team. It's the night before Downhill's race, still she looks very relaxed and very kindly grants a few time for me and a little talk to me, whose result is the following interview.

so, Daniela, better known with the nick-name of Dada, was born in Brescia in 1981 started her career as a specialist of slalom and giant slalom, moving later to the speed races, where now has taken her place among the best names.

So let's start by asking you, how does it feel to be back in Cortina after last year's victory?
Coming to Cortina is always a great emotion for me, because it's my favourite slope in the whole tour and then, well, last year I won my first race ever here, and the only one so for, hoping it won't remain the only...

Sure, and then we arrive here strong of the 2nd place in St. Anton and today's training went...
well! (best time scores in the only training done -editor's note-)
well indeed. so?
I am even more motivated than last year. You know, we can say that last year it was rather much of a surprise, I mean, I was feeling great and I knew I could make it to the top 3, but coming here with a 2nd place in the last downhill, I am not expecting to win, but I know I can do it, that's it!

Other than Cortina, where else do you enjoy racing the most?
I really like Garmisch, snow it's always hard there and I enjoy the course setting a lot.

Making a little step backwards in the past. You arrived to world cup for the slalom, your first podium arrived in Giant Slalom and've reinvented yourself as a speed specialist.
Yes, after the nth injury to my knees I was struggling to come back in GS, results weren't satisfying and so I tried downhill and it immediately went great, so from then on I didn't do speed only, but almost, you know, results were much better there.

We can say, love at first sight?
More or less, I can say I didn't feel like a true speed specialist at first.

When did that breaking-point happen?
It was a FIS race in Bardonecchia, I was starting with such a high number because my points were really high...I didn't even put on the national team's race suit, but a very shabby old one from FILA ("una tutina sfigatissima" orig.)

Don't you miss racing in GS and slalom though?
Of course I do, well, I did until a few years ago. Now, not really, but I missed racing in GS a lot.

Going to a more hot topic, how's the atmosphere of the top group? I mean, Maze, Riesch...Vonn and Riesch that are best friends on one day and foes on the other...
Well, honestly, we see each other almost only during races, in the sense that we train in different places and such, so we don't see much of each other. I am quite much of a friend with Maze and Gut anyway and with Maria (Riesch) too. I don't have much of a intercourse with Vonn, we just say hi when we meet, that's it. I just find the friendship between Riesch and Vonn odd to say the least, it doesn't look much true.

Do you think it's possible to be friends when you race at such a competitive level?
Yes, I do think so. Because I think at first should come respect for the athlete and for yourself. You have to be sincere and admit when someone has been better than you, tell her she's done great and recognise it. So yes, I think it's possible to have friendships with other athletes.
Because you know, generally it's believed girls can be a lot meaner than boys.
Well that's true, but if a friendship is true, it surely is stronger than such things.

Going back to past again, how was your first time on snow?
Terrible! My first time on snow was traumatising. honestly I don't even recall it, I must have been 6 and a half or something. I was going just because my older sisters were going too.
At first I didn't like it at all, but then I started with some small races and the team mates were cool, so I kept it going.

I think the answer is already known, but I want to hear it from you. Which is your best moment on skis?
Well, of course, last year here in Cortina, when I won the race and then singing the national anthem.

...not very nice to be asked, but what about the worst one? or the biggest disappointment, the one which was harder to move over?
Oh, you know, there are many, but you forget delusions, still I would say injuries, all of them, from the first to the last.

Moving to what is in my opinion a great compliment, you know, finding the best form of your life...
late in the career. (she very brightly smiles)
...exactly, well, I think it's a such a great message for the youngsters, since nowadays girls (and boys too) give up when still very young if they don't immediately score big results. What is the reason behind that in your opinion?
In my opinion if you have a big passion and you really want to arrive to the top, things seem less heavy. Skiing is such a difficult sport, very traumatic and there are a lot of variables. You know, one day you ski amazingly and the day after not even close and you can't understand how could that happen. But that teaches you to never give up and keep hanging on, because when victories or good results happen, you are wholly paid back for your hard work and all the sacrifices. I've never given up and in the end one could see it, I started to win - well I won (laughs) my first race at 30 and so I hope to be a good example for the younger girls.

Absolutely, mostly because, generally more often in women ski, there's a big pressure on girls to achieve great results while still young, so many girls crumble after the big steps of European Cup or World Cup.
Yes, absolutely. And then World Cup and European Cup are very different and a lot of girls, we've seen in the years, failed to prove themselves from one to the other tour and often good names of WC get bad results if they race in EC. It's very weird I know.
Coaches should still understand that every girl needs her own times to mature and so if they see something good in her, she should be given time and support even if results don't arrive immediately.

Life as a sportsman is about goals, isn't it? What are yours?
Actually I don't set much goals for me, I just think of staying healthy and so I do everything it takes to do so, in gym as on snow. So whenever I do that, I just get what it gives, of course having been on the podium last year, I wanted to be back this year, but the most important thing is to do your best at the end of the day.

The day you'll call it a career, will you be working as a trainer?
Until last year I didn't even want to take the ski instructor course, but now I think I should after all, but I am sure I won't teach skiing, not immediately at least. I will do whatever it will inspire me the most then, I've never considered it, so I don't know yet.

Outside of the world of skiing, how is Daniela Merighetti?
When I am home, I honestly love to spend time with my family and my nephews, and seeing my friends and having some fun with them too.

If you hadn't gone on with what was then a splendid career as a skier, what do you think you would have ended up doing?
I don't know, I loved playing volleyball, but I was a better skier, so it was what I went on doing, but volleyball is still my favourite sport, not skiing. So I don't know what I would have been doing, probably studied a bit more, I did only my high school because after that I knew skiing would have been my life and so I didn't take further studies.

The important thing is seeing you happy of your choices even now, after all, if you kept it going for years the passion must be very last question, what other sports do you enjoy the most or practise?
As I said I love volleyball, but I also enjoy tennis, mostly watching because I am a terrible player (schiappa - orig.)...really, unwatchable! And I think that's it...and I don't like football.

Well since this blog is about skiing and tennis, I couldn't have had a better guest. Thank you so much and all the best for tomorrow and further.
Thank you and good luck to you too.

Sadly in today's race Dada couldn't confirm the great result of last year and of the training as a big mistake almost made her fall, relegating her to a 28th place, far from the podium she was probably going to take otherwise. At the end of the race, she still looked positive and could even smile and be kind to the crowd and in a brief talk told me how that result won't affect her positivity and that she'll still go and try her best tomorrow and after. One can't but be behind her after such a display of kindness and true goodness, so good luck Dada!

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