Francesca, from skiing down the Paganella to the Italian National Cross-Country Ski Team
Monday 26 October 2020
Despite her young age, Francesca Franchi, born in 1997 in Molveno, has already had important successes in her career as a cross-country ski athlete. In the winter of 2020 alone, she won three golds and a bronze in the Italian Championships, and, together with her team mates, took third place on the podium for the Mixed Relay in the U23 World Championships in Oberwiesenthal, Germany.
“It was my father, Adriano, an Alpine Guide, who passed on his love of the mountains to me. The place I am lucky enough to call home also helped: training out in the open is always an adventure, and the route with its fabulous views enchants me just as if it was the first time”, says Francesca.
Her love affair with skiing also goes back a long way. “I started skiing at three years of age. At first I wasn't ambitious at all: I skied because I enjoyed it. I was a member of the Andalo Ski Club and I often came last, but it was good fun, which was the most important thing”.
At 15 Francesca started attending the Mountain Academy in Tione, where in addition to finishing her scientific high school certificate, she might have been able to achieve her great dream of becoming a downhill ski instructor.
“I started the school convinced that I would become a downhill ski instructor, but instead they failed me in the exam!”. However, the vicissitudes of life allowed her to pass the cross-country skiing exam and, thanks to Marta, her good friend and classmate, Francesca decided to take a different path, abandoning descent for ascent, literally and metaphorically. “I didn't know anything about cross-country skiing! Not even that there was a brilliant Cross-Country Centre in Andalo that was perfect for training, with a track of 5 kilometres that included everything, challenging and never boring.”
So after a life on downhill skis, Francesca started getting to know the cross-country world, with all her characteristic curiosity and enthusiasm. “I only took part in my first race because they promised me there would be cake at the finish! I finished third from last, but I enjoyed it loads! Accustomed as I was to downhill competitions, it was lovely to finally compete among people who were cheering me on, and I enjoyed the race all the way through – true, along with the cheering you also feel the physical effort much more!”
What motivates Francesca has always been the pure pleasure of skiing, regardless of results, but with perseverance, training, and a pinch of innate talent, the successes soon started arriving. She became a member of the Fiamme Gialle team (making her a professional athlete), there was an invitation to join the National Team, and to cap it all, a debut in the World Cup.
Like all athletes she has had to face some difficult moments: when the results fail to arrive, it is easy to get demoralized. It is very important to be able to get back up after defeat and, as they say, nobody gets back up on their own! “When there are people who believe in you right from the start, the sports season goes better”, confides Francesca. “I am lucky to have the Fiamme Gialle to back me up, my trainer and team mates, my family, and Simone, my boyfriend. Only with their support can all the doubts and uncertainties transform into grit and motivation.”
And, to tell the truth, the hard times are also necessary: for studying the details and asking yourself what went wrong, for calling everything into question, helping to reformulate objectives and once again carry home the trophies. “It is precisely at these moments that I discover unknown aspects of myself. After experiencing what it means to lose, victory has a different savour, even more thrilling”.
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