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02
Tuesday
02 June 2020

Hail Mary, full of grace and energy

Winner of World Championships – time trials, two Tours de France, one Giro d’Italia, Maria Canins started cycling at the age of 32; and let us not forget about her victories in cross-country skiing, ten editions of the Marcialongo and a victory at Vasaloppet. Canins was a Ladina from Val Badia, a victorious Italian athlete and a force of nature who respects nature in all its beauty. Her life seems to have been plucked from a novel underscored by ups and downs, walking a fine line between victory and tragedy. The youngest of four siblings, the eldest never woke up from narcosis, the second emigrated to Munich at the age of seventeen and never came back while the third, her twin sister, was stillborn. Her father was born in 1900 and went to an Austrian gymnasium; his uncle wanted him to become a priest, and yet he decided to walk down a different path, or paths, rather: a clockmaker, a waiter, a road mender, a police man. Her mother took care of the household after having been a maid in other people’s homes. Maria went to primary school and then started working in hotels. She managed to return to her studies and sat her middle school exams with people who were five, six years younger than her. Maria never stops, she is always walking, running, jumping, skiing – she competes a couple of times, too, and also discovers the joy of riding a bike, just about getting on her father’s. She comes to the realisation she is quite good at it, especially when cycling uphill, to the point that someone points out she should go even harder. A hotelier gives her a Bianchi bike as her wedding gift, and then Franco Nonens, an Olympic cross-country skier, takes her to see Francesco Moser. And, finally, Maria finds her own bicycle. But she proves her mettle even in cross-country skiing. She wins three pre-Olympic trials but she is excluded from the National team: she understands something is not right, there is something she cannot know. Maria keeps on winning: ten Marcialonga in a row, and she is the first Italian to win the Vasaloppet, then a Giro d’Italia and two Tour de France, Italian time trials and races, World and Olympic medals, mountain bike and road races. Sport is more than a discipline, victories, and medals. Sport is a way to feel alive, beat her own records, find oneself, and feel emotions. And she does not need any type doping – to the point that when they offer her massages she rebels and nobody dares get close to her. She would need doping to go slower, she says. Maria is a believer, and feels she needs someone up there, who accompanies here even today as she continues walking, running, cycling, and skiing. Maria and nature, one and the same. Nature as a source of energy, to overcome the loss for her Bruno, her husband who died in a cycling accident. Surrounded by nature, with her shoes, skis, or on her bike, she can pray and find peace and beauty. Because Maria is a force of nature.