Inspired Satoya claims shock moguls gold

Picture by IOC / Kishimoto

As reigning world champion and the World Cup frontrunner, France's Candice Gilg was the clear favourite for gold in the women’s moguls.

It was therefore a major shock when she didn’t even make the final, after botching a difficult helicopter leap during the qualifying round. With the Frenchwoman out of the frame, the contest for gold was suddenly blown wide open.

But even then, few would have rated the chances of Japan's Tae Satoya. Four years earlier she had placed only 11th in Lillehammer, and that was also her position in the qualifying round in Nagano.

Satoya had grown up in the Olympic city of Sapporo, scene of the 1972 Winter Games, and her been coached since her earliest years by her father. A year before the Nagano Olympics, he had died of cancer and she now wore a pair of earrings that he had given her, and carried a photo of him in her pocket.

Perhaps inspired by her father’s memory, or by the support of of the Japanese crowd, Satoya was transformed in the final, producing the best run of her life. She then watched on as her rivals all failed to beat her score, and celebrated emotionally as her victory was confirmed. It was not just a personal triumph, but a national milestone, as she became the first Japanese woman to win gold at the Winter Games.

Four years later, she took a bronze medal in Salt Lake City and went on to compete at both Turin 2006 and Vancouver 2010, joining a select group of athletes who have taken part in five editions of the Winter Games.