Arianna Fontana wins Italy its first gold medal of the Winter Olympics

Italy has its first gold medal of the 2018 Winter Olympics, thanks to short track speed skater Arianna Fontana.

Arianna Fontana wins Italy its first gold medal of the Winter Olympics
Arianna Fontana celebrates her win in Pyeongchang. Photo: Mladen Antonov/AFP

Fontana took first place in the women's 500 metres event in Pyeongchang on Tuesday, with Choi Min-jeong of South Korea so close behind it was a photo finish.

Choi was disqualified, leaving Yara Van Kerkhof of the Netherlands and Canada's Kim Boutin with silver and bronze respectively. 

Fontana, Choi and Boutin. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP

“I was a long journey, more beautiful than I had imagined,” said Fontana, who has four Olympic bronzes and one silver from previous games. “It's a dream come true. I've been chasing this gold for years. It feels wonderful to have crossed the finish line ahead of [Choi] on her home turf.”

The effort earned Fontana, who carried the Italian flag in the Pyeongchang opening ceremony, the congratulations of Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. 

Italy also got its first silver of the games on Tuesday: it went to skier Federico Pellegrino in the men's cross country sprint. 

“I wanted a medal at all costs,” said Pellegrino, who narrowly overtook Alexander Bolshunov of Russia for second place, behind Norway's Høsflot Klæbo in first.

Italy currently has one medal of each colour, thanks to a bronze for Dominik Windisch in the men's biathlon 10 km sprint. 

Team Italia is hoping to pick up some more in the women's alpine skiing events, while 22-year-old Michela Moioli is one of the favourites to win the snowboard cross.


Italy’s ski season begins with Covid green pass rules in place

Italy’s ski slopes have begun reopening with hopes that Covid-19 passes and other health measures will be enough to prevent closures this year.

Ski lifts in Italy require a health pass.
Ski lifts in Italy require a health pass this year. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Some of Italy’s biggest ski resorts opened for the new season on Wednesday, with Covid-19 green passes required when using ski lifts, social distancing measures in place at entrances and online booking required in some areas.

While Italy’s government did not specify that the green pass would be required on slopes or to take ski lifts this winter, this is one of the rules agreed in a protocol signed last month by Italy’s winter sports federation, association of chairlift operators and association of ski instructors.

The green pass requirement applies to everyone aged over 12 when accessing lifts, capacity is reduced to 80 percent for closed cable cars (open chairlifts can operate at full capacity), and masks are a requirement in all “common areas”, the protocol states.

EXPLAINED: What are the Covid rules on Italian ski slopes this winter?

Italy’s Covid health certificate demonstrates that the holder has either been vaccinated, has recovered from the virus recently or has tested negative.

In the popular ski resort of Cervinia, on the Swiss border, local police and staff were checking green passes and identity documents and no crowds or problems were reported as the lifts opened for the start of the season on Wednesday morning, according to the AGI news agency.

Cervinia has also made it compulsory to buy ski passes online, though this is only a recommendation under the protocol.

At the moment in Cervinia it is only possible to ski on the Plateau Rosa and on the Swiss side, while slopes on the Italian side are still being prepared.

The Swiss government agreed with resorts on Tuesday that that health certificates will not be required on the country’s slopes or to take chairlifts.

In France, the health minister has said he is considering whether to make the health pass compulsory for using ski lifts.

Under rules set by the Italian government, the pass is a requirement for all customers aged over 12 at indoor bars and restaurants. Though not a requirement to enter hotels or accommodation, the pass is needed when accessing hotel restaurants and facilities such as spas.

In addition to the health pass requirement, the standard Italian health rules on masks and distancing will also be in place at all businesses.