Moioli tops outstanding season with Olympic SBX Gold
Michela Moioli (ITA) has claimed the first Olympic snowboard title for Italy winning the dramatic and exciting women's snowboard cross race of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games ahead of Julia Pereira de Sousa Mabileau (FRA) and 2014 title winner Eva Samkova (CZE).
Four years after missing out the Sochi podium as sixth after tearing her ACL in her left knee in a fall, the 22-year-old from Bergamo got her moment of redemption thanks to her incredible form she has been able to built for the sport's pinnacle event.
Keeping the momentum from seven podium finishes in the last seven World Cup races – including four wins – Moioli, the top qualifier from this morning's time trials, prevailed in her eighth and quarter finals with wire-to-wire wins earned in dominant fashion therefore going into the final heat with a lot of confidence.
But when the gates dropped and the six riders dropped on the 1,277 metres course, it wasn't the 2017-18 World Cup leader with the best reaction time.
Instead, 16-year-old French young gun Pereira de Sousa Mabileau got the hole shot but quickly got passed by five-time World Champion Lindsey Jacobellis who had skipped three of four World Cup events in the lead up to PyeongChang after crashing hard in Italy right before Christmas.
Making herself scarce over the past weeks the US superstar, a podium threat whenever she enters a race, therefore had become an unpredictable factor in this women's final which picked up pace after the first turns when Moioli outplayed Jacobellis, the 2006 Olympic Silver medallist, on the inside line.
The Italian hope for the third Olympic snowboard medal since 1998 managed to get away by one to two board lengths and maintained this lead to cross the finish line first.
“I have no words,” Moioli said. “It's the best day of my life, really. I started to cry when I crossed the finish line and I'll cry again maybe. I'm so excited as this is a dream from when I was a little child. Don't wake me up if it's a dream.”
While Moioli took a well deserved Gold, the rest battled hard and head to head for Silver and Bronze
In the end, defending champion Eva Samkova crowned an incredible comeback after having a late start.
The defending champion, whose father passed away three weeks ago, stormed from behind through the field to third crossing the finish line right behind Pereira de Sousa Mabileau, the so far biggest surprise of this Olympic's snowboard decisions, capitalising on a crash of 2014 Olympic Bronze medallist Chloe Trespeuch (FRA) on the landing of the final kicker.
“This is so cool because I didn't feel well yesterday. I was really down. I'm really happy that I got on the podium,” Samkova stated.
Her stunning last-minute bronze also equalled another disappointing Olympic campaign for Jacobellis who had missed the finals of the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games and now was forced to settle for fourth while Trespeuch and Alexandra Jekova (BUL) finished in the respective fifth and sixth position.
Full results can be checked here.