The Italian Almanac

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Giorgio Rocca

Italian Sport - December 20

The Italian skiing team's spectacular form is raising hopes here that the host nation is in for a rich medal haul at February's Turin Winter Olympics. Last weekend's Azzurri one-two by Massimiliano Blardone and Davide Simoncelli in the giant slalom World Cup at Alta Badia came on the back of two Giorgio Rocca slalom wins and Elena Fanchini's downhill victory at Lake Louise. Italy's tally of four Alpine skiing World Cup victories this season is only topped by Austria, with eight.

"It's a beautiful moment for all of us, it looks like the Azzurri avalanche is back," said Rocca, 30, who won the slaloms at Madonna di Campiglio and Beaver Creek to pick up the seventh and eighth World Cup wins of his career. The original Azzurri avalanche (valanga azzurra) was the great slalom quintet of Piero Gros, Gustavo Thoeni, Erwin Stricker, Helmut Schmalzl and Tino Pietrogiovanna that managed to shut out the Austrians on their home slopes and take the first five places at the Berchtesgaden World Cup in January 1974. Since then all strong Italian skiing teams have been given the 'valanga azzurra' nickname.

"It's a fine period and it seems that we are already breathing the Olympic air, giving 100% in each race," Rocca continued. "We don't know what will happen in two months time, but everything is going well." Rocca has earned comparisons with Italian skiing legend Alberto Tomba thanks to this season's wins, which also helped him ditch the derisory tag "Rocca non c'imbrocca" (Rocca can't get it right) stemming from his early-career habit of combining a great first run with a poor second one.