Nicola, paragliding pilot
“The view of the lake and the mountains is spectacular. Everything is more impressive from up there.”
Nicola Donini, class of 1996, knows what it means to fly. In 2013, at just 17 years, he became the youngest Italian paragliding champion of all time in both aerobatics and racing. Nowadays, when he is not competing or training, he takes people flying over Lake Molveno and the Brenta Dolomites.
A family with its head among the clouds
For Nicola it runs in the family. His father is Luca Donini, world paragliding champion in 2001. In 2016 they both became ex aequo Italian champions. “My father certainly influenced me a lot,” recounts Nicola. “I was only 3 years old when he took me flying for the first time, in tandem. At 9 years I already passed my time on the beach in Molveno playing with a paraglider, flying a few feet above the ground. At 11 years I did my first high solo flight.”
Both of them share an instinctive love of speed, fundamental for cross country competitions, when the first to arrive is the winner. “Physical ability is not enough in this type of competition, most of all you need a cool head and good strategy. The pilots are all very skilled, and to win you have to make as few errors as possible,” explains Nicola. “Instead for aerobatics competitions you have to train and fly a lot, because the different manoeuvres are very demanding and require a lot of precision. The more spectacular your aerobatics, the more points you get.”
For those who would like to try paragliding it is important not to let yourself be put off by fear. Nicola and Luca are expert pilots and know the skies above Molveno well. If you can overcome the fear, then the thrills are guaranteed. “I remember well a mother with an adolescent daughter who we took flying in tandem, they were rather timid and scared. My father and I were convinced that it was going to be difficult. On the chairlift on the way to the take-off platform they were terrified, they held on to each other and could not look down. Convincing them to run and take off required some patience but once we were away everything changed. I was flying with the daughter, who immediately relaxed, she was laughing, opened up her arms, and even asked me to do some stunts.”
“At a certain point I felt a drop of water on my face. When I asked her if she was crying, she replied that they were tears of joy.”
However, a bit of fear just before take off is normal even for champions. “Up until a few years ago I suffered from vertigo. If I looked down from the high floors of a tall building, I was scared,” admits Nicola. “But flying takes you into another dimension.”
“When you run forward and take off the fear disappears.”
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