- 23 Jan 2015
- IOC News
Manuela Di Centa recalls her incredible five medal haul at Lillehammer 1994
In the latest of our exclusive video interviews with Olympic legends, Manuela Di Centa recalls her incredible five medal haul in the cross country events at Lillehammer 1994.
At the age of four, Manuela Di Centa was given a pair of red wooden skis made for her by her grandfather. She soon exhibited a natural flair on the piste, and by the time she was 17 was already competing for Italy’s national cross country team, making her first appearance at the Winter Games in Sarajevo 1984. Eight years later, at Albertville 1992, she won her first Olympic medal, helping the Italian quartet take bronze in the women’s 4x5km relay.
Five star Lillehammer
Between 13 and 24 February 1994 at the Winter Games in Lillehammer, Di Centa achieved something quite incredible, as she secured a place on all five podiums in the women’s cross country events. She began her Olympic campaign by winning the 15km classical, ahead of her main rival Lyubov Yegorova of Russia, who then consigned her to silver in the 15km freestyle and the 10km pursuit. Di Centa teamed up with Bice Vanzetta, Gabriella Paruzzi and Stefania Belmondo to help Italy win bronze in the 4x5km relay, before rounding off her spectacular Games with another individual gold in the 30km freestyle.
“Norway is the place where cross country was born. I felt at home there,” explains Di Centa. “Winning there was a little bit different from winning in a place that lacks the same feeling for cross country. At Lillehammer the sense of tradition was incredible and that made me feel bigger and happier than I did anywhere else,” says Di Centa.
The Italian competed at the Winter Games for the last time at Nagano 1998, where she once more helped Italy to the bronze in the 4x5km relay, her seventh Olympic medal.
In Nagano, she was also elected to the Athletes’ Commission of the IOC, and a year later became an IOC Member, going on to play an active role on the Radio & Television Committee, while also pursuing a career as a commentator on Italian TV. Today she also serves as vice president of the Italian NOC, while in 2003 she completed an ascent of Everest, planting the Olympic flag at the summit.