You don’t often hear of skiers born and raised in Rome who pursue a skiing career, and you certainly don’t hear of many that make it to the very top of the sport.
Francesca Marsaglia was born in Rome into a very sporty family who encouraged her to play sports form a very early age. While her mom encouraged her to pursue a tennis career, which most likely would have been a more “straightforward” choice based on her location, it was her father’s ski coach influence that prevailed.
Francesca describes her path as straightforward, even though looking from the outside it sounds everything but:
“When my family decided to uproot and move to Northern Italy, I obviously followed, even though at that stage being a skier was not really my dream. Yet somehow, I kept having fun, which led to winning races and the more I won and grew, the more the desire to continue increased. It was not long after that I found myself in the national team and, later, competing in the World Cup,” she explains.
While she might make the beginnings sound simple, Francesca’s path was hardly an easy one. Francesca’s breakthrough season came in 2013 when she landed her first top-10 results in giant slalom. In the seasons that followed she claimed top-10 results also in super G and Combined, showcasing a talent across disciplines.
In the summer of 2017, after battling with persistent groin pain, she underwent surgery to remove a hernia and was due to be back on skis in no time. Yet, the pain never went away, and it took two more surgeries for related issues before she could be back on skis with no pain. The surgeries also meant she was forced to sit out a full World Cup season.
“I never thought that would have been the end of the line for me, I knew I had more to give to the sport. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit worried before the second surgery – it was unclear what was wrong and that impacted me not only physically but mentally as well,” Francesca recalls the worst months of her career. “In a way it was in those darkest moments that I potentially learned the most. Once I was able to ski without any pain once again, I realized I could appreciate so many things I used to take for granted,” she adds.
Once healthy again, Francesca didn’t take long to get back on track and reclaim her spot among the fastest skiers in the world. On a long-awaited day in December 2019, in the downhill race in Lake Louise, Canada she finally crossed the finish line knowing all the pain and hard work had just paid off – she claimed her first World Cup podium.
“I was a little bit stressed before the start, then 10 seconds before I just thought, ‘okay, enjoy it and put your best skiing on the slope, race, and let it go.”
And let it go she did. As she crossed the finish line, Francesca let out a thunderous scream that sounded both cathartic and triumphant at the same time. Having been sidelined for so long, the girl from Rome was back where she belongs.