Deborah Compagnoni became the first Alpine skier to win gold medals at three different Olympic Games, despite a career plagued by injuries
In the genes
Deborah Compagnoni was the daughter of a ski instructor, and it soon became apparent she had inherited her father’s genes. Aged 17, she claimed gold in the giant slalom at the 1987 World Junior Championships. A year later she suffered the first of many injuries that would plague her career.
In 1988, Compagnoni broke her right knee in a downhill race. Just when she was ready to compete again, she had to undergo emergency surgery for a kidney infection. She went on to endure four operations on her knees and once, in 1990, almost died from an intestinal blockage.
Compagnoni’s long awaited senior breakthrough finally came in the 1991/92 season. She won her first World Cup race and became Olympic Super G champion in Albertville. However, as fate would have it, the very next day she fell in the giant slalom and damaged her cruciate ligaments.
To preserve her fragile knees, Compagnoni concentrated on slalom and giant slalom events. Remaining injury free, she went on to win the giant slalom at both the 1994 and 1998 Olympic Games. This achievement made her the first Alpine skier to win gold medals at three different Olympic Games. She also earned a silver medal in the slalom, missing a fourth gold by only six-hundredths of a second.