Michelle Gisin reflected on “the craziest rollercoaster” having battled back from illness to win Beijing Olympic gold in the alpine combined on Thursday.
The Swiss racer was laid low last summer by mononucleosis, a strength-sapping viral infection that left her fearing for her sporting career.
Now fully recovered, Gisin struck gold in the alpine combined to claim her second medal of the Beijing Games after last week’s super-G bronze.
The 28-year-old said there was “no way” she could have imagined winning gold while she lay prone with the virus last August watching the Tokyo Summer Games.
“No, not at all,” she said.
“I could not have imagined winning because it was so intense emotionally, it was the craziest rollercoaster,” she said of her fight back to fitness.
Gisin was inspired by watching Italian swimmer Gregorio Paltrinieri win Olympic silver in the 800m freestyle in Tokyo having overcome the virus himself.
Advice from Paltrinieri on his return from Tokyo, plus tips from teammate Camille Rast and German skier Alexander Schmid, who also both had mononucleosis, helped Gisin get back on the slopes.
“I have so many people to thank for helping me,” she said.
Healthy again, Gisin puts her double medal haul down to a glass of wine the night before her bronze and gold.
She explained that after her teammates “wrote on my door ‘drink wine, ski fast’, I drank a glass of wine with them again yesterday and look at that — it seems to work for me”.
Advice from teammate Marco Odermatt in the early hours of Monday, while he was still celebrating winning giant slalom gold, gave her tips for the downhill section of Thursday’s combined.
“I was woken up as he was partying in a room next to mine. I got up and went to congratulate him, me wrapped in a blanket, him still in his race suit,” she said.
“We actually started discussing the downhill at 1:00 am — him drunk, me a little tired.
“He was totally right about one of the turns up there.”
Gisin felt a “kind of adrenaline rush” when US ski star Mikaela Shiffrin crashed out of the slalom section — normally her strongest event — during Thursday’s alpine combined competition.
“It’s a shame. These have been a horrible Olympic Games for her,” said Gisin.
“But as I told her, I feel pretty badass about winning one slalom in my career, she has (won) 47.
“So she is 47 times as badass as I am.”
Gisin backed Shiffrin to bounce back from her latest disappointment having also crashed out of the giant slalom and slalom at these Games.
Gisin compared her infection last summer to Shiffrin’s current misfortune.
“I saw this with myself, sometimes you are up there and sometimes you are down there, that is just how normal athletes and human beings live.
“I am extremely sure she will bounce back and be strong again.”