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Understanding Italy’s history with winter sports

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Understanding Italy's history with winter sports

Italy has a rich history in Winter Olympicsboth as a participant and host.

Italian athletes competed in every edition of the Games, accumulating 141 Olympic medals so far – including 42 zlotys.

In three years, the European power will host its own III Winter Olympic Games in Milan Cortina 2026and plans to make it the biggest release yet.

Below we take a look at some of Italy’s greatest Olympic Winter Games moments, top athletes and more.

We are next | Milan Cortina 2026

Olympic Winter OGames in Italy

Cortina d’Ampezzo 1956

There was a special atmosphere in the room Cortina d’Ampezzo 1956 Games, with most places within walking distance of each other.

Three-time Olympian in speed skating Guido Caroli rode into the opening ceremony to light the cauldron, and the hosts finished eighth in the 32-nation medal table with one gold and two silver medals.

It was attended by 32 nations and was the last time figure skating competitions were held outdoors at the Olympics. Olimpico del Ghiaccio Stadium.

Cortina d’Ampezzo Trailer of the Olympic Games 1956 | White vertigo

Turin 2006

The Games grew from 24 medals in Cortina d’Ampezzo to 84 in Turin 2006with Olympic debuts in mass start biathlon, cross-country team sprint, snowboard cross and team pursuit skating.

Italy finished ninth in the medal table from a then-record 80 nations, with five gold medals and six bronze.

Manuel Di Centseven-time Olympic medalist in cross-country skiing, collected medals for the men’s 50 km run, including giving the gold medal to her brother Giorgio Di Cent.

Opening Ceremony Turin 2006 | Highlights of Turin 2006

Milan Cortina 2026

Seventy years after Italy made its Olympic debut in 1956, the Games will return to Italy Milan Cortina 2026.

Approximately 2,900 athletes will compete in 114 events, with 47% of women participating in what will be the most gender-balanced Winter Olympic Games in history.

Mountain skiing will make its debut at the Olympics, and curling will take place at the rebuilt Stadio Olimpico del Ghiaccio, which now has a roof.

For more information, check out our comprehensive guide to Winter Olympic Games Milan Cortina 2026.

Italian stars: why Milano Cortina 2026 will be special

Italy’s performance at the Winter Olympics

Italy has so far won 141 Winter Olympic medals, including 42 gold, 42 silver and 56 bronze.

The country’s most successful sport is alpine skiing with 14 Olympic champions, followed by cross-country skiing with nine.

Despite Germany’s traditional dominance in slide events, Italy managed to compete with them, winning seven gold medals in luge and four in bobsleigh.

At the Winter Olympics Beijing 2022Italy brought home 17 medals, including gold for short track speed skater Ariana Fontana and curling in mixed doubles Stefania Constantini and Amos Mosaner.

Stefania Constantini and Amos Mosaner: Moments related to the Beijing 2022 medal

The most successful athletes of the Winter Olympic Games in Italy

Arianna Fontana, short track speed skater

Arianna Fontana is the most successful Italian athlete at the Winter Olympics, with eleven medals.

She won gold in the women’s 500 m Pyeongchang 2018, before defending this title at Beijing 2022.

The 32-year-old also won silver medals in the 1,500 m and 2,000 m mixed relays, becoming the most successful short track speed skater in Olympic history.

My Great Winter Olympic Moments with Arianna Fontana

Deborah Compagnoni, alpine skiing

With three Olympic gold medals and one silver, Deborah Compagnoni is the best Italian alpine skier ever.

The Bormio athlete’s resume is all the more impressive as she overcame a broken knee as a junior and needed life-saving surgery to remove 27 inches of her intestine in 1990 to win Albertville 1992 Olympic Super-G by 1.8 seconds.

The next day, Compagnoni tore her knee ligaments in the giant slalom but came back to win the giant slalom at the 1994 Lillehammer Games. Nagano 1998, making her also the only alpine skier to win gold at three consecutive Olympics. Today is Milano Cortina Ambassador 2026.

Deborah Compagnoni: Golden Determination

Eugenio Monti, bobsleigh

Eugenio Monti is considered one of the greatest bobsleigh pilots in history

He won six Olympic medals, including two gold in the doubles and fours Games in Grenoble 1968.

There could have been even more if bobsleigh hadn’t been included Winter Olympic Games in Squaw Valley 1960.

Monti was also a nine-time world champion and was awarded the Pierre de Coubertin Medal in 1964 for an act of sporting competition when he lent a screw from his two-man sled to a damaged British sled between runs. The British won gold.

UNESCO Director-General Rene Maheu presents the International Fair Play trophy to Italian bobsleigh champion Eugenio Monti in 1965.  Monti won an award for an act of sporting competition at the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck.
UNESCO Director-General Rene Maheu presents the International Fair Play trophy to Italian bobsleigh champion Eugenio Monti in 1965. Monti won an award for an act of sporting competition at the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck. (2007 Getty Images)

Manuel Di Cent, cross-country skiing

Manuela Di Centa was a household name in Italy in the 1990s, when she won seven Olympic medals in cross-country skiing.

The best choice was her gold medals in the 15 km freestyle and 30 km breaststroke Lillehammer 1994.

The cross-country skiing genes must have been strong in the Di Centa family, as her younger brother Giorgio won two Olympic gold medals in Turin Games 2006while her niece Martina was competing to represent Italy at Beijing 2022.

Manuela Di Centa – The mind of a cross-country skier

Alberto Tomba, alpine skiing

Nicknamed ‘La Bomba’, Alberto Tomba burst into the alpine skiing circuit with victory over Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark in his second World Cup appearance.

As a muscular, powerful skier, he proved that skiing is not just for lighter, traditional athletes.

He is not lacking in confidence, the Bologna resident allegedly proclaimed: “I am the new messiah of skiing!” when he crossed the finish line in a slalom race later in the season, which he won.

Tomba won gold medals in giant slalom and slalom Calgary 1988before defending his giant slalom title at Albertville 1992.

Watch as Alberto Tomba defended his giant slalom title

Armin Zoeggeler, tobogganer

Growing up on top of a steep hill, Zoeggeler started sledding at the age of seven to catch the school bus at the bottom.

He was nicknamed “The Cannibal” in the professional luge ranks for his competitive demeanor and steely focus on racing.

In 2014, he retired as the first athlete to win a medal in the same individual event at six consecutive Olympic Games.

The bronze medals were delivered at Lillehammer 1994, Vancouver 2010 and sochi 2014, silver at Nagano 1998and gold at Salt Lake City 2002 and again on own ice at Turin 2006.

Italy’s Armin Zoeggeler defends his Olympic luge title

Famous World Cup venues selected for Milano Cortina 2026

Cortina d’Ampezzo

The biathlon will take place in Anterselva-Antholz, a famous place for those who are interested in sports. It is an existing annual stop on the Biathlon World Cup circuit and a local favourite Dorothy Wierer she won two of her three world titles in 2020.

Bobsleigh, skeleton and toboggan riders will bang their horns Cortina d’Ampezzo.

The women’s alpine skiing tournament will be held at the Olympia delle Tofane, the same venue where the men’s downhill in Cortina 1956 was held. The 2021 World Championships and regular World Cups over the years have also been held at the same venue.

Valtellina

The men’s alpine skiing competition will take place on the Stelvio slope in Bormiowhich made its World Cup debut in 1985.

Regarded as one of the world’s toughest downhill courses, it hosted the 2005 World Championships as well as the 1995, 2000 and 2008 World Cup competitions.

Val di Fiemme

Ski jumping, cross-country skiing and Nordic combined will take place in Val di Fiemme, which hosted the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in 1991 and 2003.

The Tour de Ski in cross-country skiing traditionally ends since 2007 with the Final Climb stage on Alpe Cermis.

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