Olympic champions in hard-hit Bergamo surrounded by death
ROME – Standing together before nearly 100 members of the International Olympic Committee, Sofia Goggia and Michela Moioli felt like they were on top of the world.
Each an Olympic gold medalist, Goggia the skier and Moioli the snowboarder dabbed in unison for a moment that was later considered vital in Milan-Cortina’s successful bid to host the 2026 Games — winning over the voters with their positive energy.
Eight months later, Goggia and Moioli feel like their worlds are crumbling apart.
Locked inside their homes just a few miles apart in the Bergamo area of northern Italy that is struggling to handle the coronavirus, they are surrounded by death and despair.
Moioli’s grandmother died after being infected with the virus and her grandfather, who also tested positive, remains in intensive care.
“It’s a war at home,” Moioli said. “The town is completely deserted. The only sounds you hear are church bells ringing for deaths and ambulances. Outside the cemetery, coffins are stacked up because there’s nobody to bury them.
“Every family has at least one person with the coronavirus,” Moioli added.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the virus.
Bergamo is the epicenter of the hardest-hit province of Italy’s hardest-hit region, Lombardy, the site of hundreds of coronavirus deaths. Families there are deprived of a bedside farewell with virus-stricken loved ones, or even a traditional funeral, and the cemetery is so overwhelmed by the number of dead that military trucks transported 65 bodies to a neighboring region for cremation this week.
“This is what we’re hearing from our homes,” Goggia tweeted Thursday in Italian when she shared a photo of the procession of military trucks carrying the bodies away.
This was turning out to be a memorable year for Bergamo, with its soccer team, Atalanta, qualifying for the quarterfinals of the Champions League — a remarkable achievement for a provincial club.
Now, though, the Champions League is on hold.
“The hospitals, especially in the Bergamo area, are about to fall apart,” Goggia wrote on Instagram. “The thought that so many elderly people are facing such tough days breaks my heart. They are dealing with a devastating sense of solitude and despondency.
“We’ve got to be resilient,” added Goggia, who won the coveted downhill title at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
Moioli, who won gold in snowboard cross in Pyeongchang, was forced to leave her home near Bergamo at the end of January when the virus first hit and move into military barracks in Courmayeur in order to finish the World Cup season and avoid being quarantined.
While she had already clinched her third season-long World Cup title, Moioli made a point of winning the final race of the season in Veysonnaz, Switzerland, a week ago. Afterward, she broke down into tears during a post-race interview, saying that she had raced “for my hometown.”
Days later, Moioli’s grandmother, Camilla, passed away.
“The funeral lasted only five minutes. There wasn't even time to gather the family,” Moioli said. “Now we’re praying for grandpa Antonio. When this is all finished it will be even better to be Italians. People will be better, more unselfish.”
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