The mountains of the Julian Alps have been very kind to me.
This week, Marco Tonazzi put me together for a run with Five-Time Olympian, yes, that is right – Five Time Olympian – Gabriella Paruzzi, who was a member of the Italian team for each Olympics from Albertville in 1992 through the Games in Nagano in 2006.
We talked about how she has sadness and mixed feelings about the ban on the Russian team for the upcoming Games in Rio. In her own experience, Gabriella has seen the unfairness of those who have cheated in athletics. Her Gold came after the banning of a Russian who had doped. Gabriella feels that it is necessary to deal harshly with those who cheat, but it is unfortunate to have others who did not get caught in the web of the ban.
In Gabriella’s Gold Medal race, she lost a pole during the competition. Her coach gave her another pole, but it was too long. She lost ground to the leaders, but eventually was able to get a ski pole that was the proper size. Though trailing, she increased her effort, reached down deep and picked up the pace, and then raced past the other skiers to win the Gold Medal.
Gabriella knows what it is like to be challenged.
It was an honor to share the trail with her.
In 2002, she won the Gold Medal in the 30Km Classical cross-country skiing event in Salt Lake City, Utah. She also won four other bronze medals, one in each of the other Games, as a member of the women’s 4x5km cross-country relay team.
Today, she and her husband run a restaurant in the resort of Lussari high in the Julian Alps. She is also a supporter of other Italian athletes and works with the Italian Army on athletic endeavors.
Marco had mentioned “The Running Decathlon” and my quest to raise funds for the Bridging Bionics Foundation. Gabriella eagerly agreed to take a run with me to show her solidarity for the project.
We met on a majestic Sunday morning in the Saisera Valley. I took her through the entire program and explained the importance of the goal of purchasing a Bionic Exoskeleton for the Foundation. She was touched by the stories of Amanda, Mackenzie and Tim,, and could relate to those who have overcome challenges in their lives as well. She explained that she had worked with Italian athletes who had been disabled by injury, but had come back to ski in the Paralympic Games.
Gabriella and I took off on a short but energetic jaunt through the trails of the Valley that she runs today on a regular basis.