Euro 2022 winner Alessia Russo on making history, inspiring a generation and that viral backheel goal
Alessia Russo celebrated her first gold medal in a medal-less world championships in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where she beat fellow gold medalist, the United States’ Mikaela Shiffrin.
Alessia Russo became the first athlete to take part in eight Olympics or World Cup championships. Her path from a small town in upstate New York to the pinnacle of the sport was quite extraordinary. At 14, she was on an American team that won the bronze medal at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, but was only able to make it on one relay. “I was so good at track and field, I thought I’d make gold medals,” she told NBC Sports. “When I did, I was like, ‘Wow, I’m really excited to be a part of these things. And being a part of this was my dream.’ ” After competing in the World Youth Games, she got a taste for the Olympics. “The Olympics were different than you imagined they would be,” she said. “There were girls who I looked up to and thought, ‘She can do this.’” Alessia Russo began competing in the World Championships in 2014, a sport she had always wanted to watch. She loved the competition and was drawn to the style of racing. She moved from New York to California to train, living in a tiny basement apartment so she could have room to practice. “It was a crazy ride, but one of my best ever,” she said. “I got to do that.” She was so good she was able to make it on one women’s sprint relay team, winning a bronze medal. After graduating high school in 2014, she moved to Pyeongchang where she was able to make time and space to compete as she pleased. “I’m from a small town,” she said. “And I’ve always kind of felt like, I’m just kind of an under dog. And it’s fun just being an under dog, you know.” She said she learned to adapt to high altitude and a different style of racing, because in order to win the silver medal at the 2014 World Championships