Italy’s Giacomo Bertagnolli is heading into his home World Para Alpine Skiing Championships as his country’s brightest medal hope, firmly believing that he has a chance of winning gold.
The visually impaired skier, who turns 18 on Thursday (19 January), currently leads the super-G World Cup. He also has three wins in slalom and giant slalom from this season, alongside a series of podium finishes with guide Fabrizio Casal.
Speaking with just a few days to go until the Worlds get underway in Tarvisio on 22 January, Bertagnolli said: “For the World Championship, I would like to win in giant slalom and super-G. If we ski well, we can win.
“I want to win for everyone that has helped me in these four years that’s led me to the most important event of my life.”
The young Italian is also not fazed by his age. Despite the fact he will face some of the world’s best and most established athletes, such as Slovakia’s super combined world champion Miroslav Haraus, he does not believe it is a deciding factor.
“The age isn’t important,” the rising star said. “I’m not scared! I’m happy to compete against them. In these races, we are all friends - after the race, of course. It’s like to speak or stay with my friends at school.”
The last time Bertagnolli skied in Tarvisio he picked up a win in giant slalom and a third place in slalom. However he has never skied speed events on home snow.
“The course in Tarvisio was very fun, but also technical and difficult,” the Italian said. “I remember that last year, my coach traced the first run, and I was a little bit scared.
“I have never raced in the super-G and downhill… in Tarvisio, so I don’t really know how the course is. It will be a surprise!”
On Haraus and guide Maros Hudik, Bertagnolli is a great admirer of the double Paralympian.
“To beat Haraus, we must ski well, as we know, and finish the races,” he said. “He has got no fear when he skies but opposite to us, he is heavy.”
Though he places much more emphasis on having fun, Bertagnolli will look to continue his success at his second World Championships.
If one his country’s best skiers meets his expectations, he will have slightly more than a year to prepare for what could be his first Paralympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, in 2018.
“It means that I must always train more and better, because I want to be ready for my first Paralympics,” Bertagnolli said. “One year is a lot of time, so I’m not concerned.”
The Tarvisio 2017 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships, taking place between 22-31 January, will feature 130 of the world’s best skiers from 25 countries.
All races will be livestreamed and live results will be available.