In the year 2015, people seem to need to find motivation from anywhere they can grab it. Whether it be from the internet, memes, or list articles, the concept of just making a fist and punching your way through something because you want to is becoming a lost art. We take the simple things for granted and find proud accomplishments in sometimes mundane tasks and want worldwide recognition for it. So when you look to someone who perhaps could be a source on inspiration or motivation we tend to look to people who were born with genetic gifts to have ridiculously low body fat percentages, or even born into celebrity families to think maybe we could use that to kick ourselves in the ass.
I’ll tell you right now, if you need motivation to know without a doubt you can do anything you set your mind to, look no further than Championship Skier Sofia Righetti. When she was born, Sofia encountered a major complication when the doctors made a grave error during a heart procedure that didn’t allow blood to reach her spinal cord. Due to this, she lost the use of her legs from that day. Her parents fought for her in court to expose the error of the medical staff, and were able to get the courts to recognize the major mistake the doctors made during the procedure. Growing up though, Sofia looked at this as not a negative but a positive way to learn to overcome anything from a young age, with the support of her wonderful family. If someone told her “you can’t” her posi-mindset instantly said “well, how bout yes I can do that” would take over. For instance, playing guitar in punk bands growing up. Or modeling. Or how bout gold and silver finishes at the Italy Paralympic Championships? Yes you read that right. This plant based athlete refuses to be told she cannot do something, by anyone. And with an insane amount of dedication to being the absolute best possible, she managed to reach the gold medal in just around two years experience. With an iron will as such, you can bet dollars to doughnuts she’s just getting started on her path of athletics, competition and spreading an amazing message of motivation to anyone who wants to read it. Read our recent conversation with Sofia, and prepare for your motivation game to be taken to a new level.
MMF: For our first question, can you tell the readers a bit about your “disability (you’re more like superwoman to us, but you know what we mean….I dislike the word disabled personally…)” and when you started skiing…..
Sofia: Sure, and thank you for calling me “superwoman”! When I was born I had a congenital heart disease, and I got an urgent surgery at the age of 5 months! The surgery went good, but during it doctors didn’t notice that my blood was not reaching spinal cord! The result was a spinal cord ischemia in the lumbar, that took me away the use of legs! For me that’s not a problem, and it has never been, I’m lucky that mother nature gave me a strong and handsome body, so since i was a baby I have learned to do everything I wanted to do using my arms, shoulders, abdominals, and everything my body allowed me to do. I’ve never cared about what I could or couldn’t do! I think this is the key of feeling good with your own body and with yourself…. betting everything on your own potential and on your own capacity, without lingering on limits! Then you’ll see, as if by magic, those limits will disappear. I actually think as you do, I’ve never considered myself as a disable, as I see disability as a physical feature, as the fact of having the eyes of a certain color, or hairs of another! Every feature, it brings advantages and disadvantages! I sure cannot do squat when I’m at the gym, but I sure can lift more than lot of men around me!
So I started skiing in 2012, when i was 23 and I had never played sports before in my life….so I wanted to try something new, that could give me the same adrenaline I felt while I was playing guitar during a show! Alpine skiing was what I was looking for, with all that speed heading down the black slope, sitting on a monoski made by carbon and motocross shock absorber! It’s almost like riding a motorbike (laughs)
MMF: At what point did you figure out that “hey I might be good enough to go for the Italian Skiing Championships”? That’s a pretty big goal for anyone to go for!
Sofia: I started right away with an agonist mindset. I didn’t want to do 4 hours of driving to reach slopes just to spend my time and have fun. More so, my instructors noticed that I was good and I had a great sense of balance, then I started training with experts and qualified instructors to face poles and ski races. I’m a very competitive person and always get involved to be the best, so I worked hard and I trained a lot for Italian Skiing Championships, but it was a goal I had in mind since the first times I started skiing. And listening to Motley Crue, Testament, Pantera and the likes gave me so much energy like no drug ever would! I love music so much, and I played electric guitar for years in punk and metal bands. Listening to metal music is like pumping fuel in my veins every time, I love the way it makes me feel, so strong and powerful. My way of facing life is truly expressed in the music I listen and I love, and that energy I brought with me to become a Skiing Champion.
MMF: Describe how it felt to get gold and silver medals. It’s a dream for anyone to reach the top of a sport, but you did it on the biggest possible stage available.
Sofia: It was a unique, unbelievable and crazy feeling. The silver in slalom happened because I fell on the way down, and it took seconds to stand up again and continue my race with the best concentration. It was a great satisfaction to reach 2nd place despite of the fall, and counting that I started to practice between close poles just 3 months before. The day after there was the giant slalom, my specialty, and once I finished my race I heard speakers saying “Sofia Righetti maintains 1st place…” I just couldn’t believe it, I started to realize what was going on when I saw my instructor coming to me with tears in his eyes out of happiness. That was a beautiful day, surrounded by people who love and support me. Skiing is about strength, but also about technique and strategy, it takes a tiny error to make you throw it away, since sitting skiers like me have just one ski, and they cannot correct using the other ski, as standing skiers can do. To become a champion after two only years of training is such a great great satisfaction.
MMF: So when did you decided to go vegan and make that a part of your lifestyle?
Sofia: Even as a child I always had a great love and respect for animals, and I have always empathized with them. Unfortunately I do not come from a vegetarian family, and it was not easy when I was so small to make my parents understand that I did not want to eat meat no more. I became a vegetarian definitely at 14 years old, and I have passed through adolescence making me an active party for animal rights by making people aware of the atrocious conditions in which the non-human individuals in our society are forced in, both in terms of livestock, slaughter houses, fur trade and animal testing. I then graduated at the University of Bologna in philosophy of medicine with a thesis against animal testing, by obtaining the highest marks. I became a vegan in 2012, it has been a gradual process. Even before I avoided milk and eggs, but definitely becoming vegan was the greatest act of love that I could do for animals, the planet, and also myself. Many people do not know all the pain and cruelty that lie behind the production of milk, eggs, cheese and dairy products, but unfortunately it is so. And the animals are treated as objects, machines geared for the sale of food that man It does not need to feed it, and I can not accept it and do not want to comply with that.
And being vegan is easy, as there are lots of products full of protein that taste delicious like seitan, tofu, tempeh, soy, mopur … and then the vegetables, fruits, legumes, cereals … Nature offers already everything we need to live in full health. Obviously also regarding clothes and shoes I am very careful to choose objects not made of leather, wool or feather duster. But it is also easy here, many production companies are adapting to the growing awareness of the people, making high quality products and cruelty free. Becoming a champion of Italian skiing was amazing because I could prove that you can be strong, athletic and strong and get to higher levels of competitive sport following nutrition plan that does not completely involve animal suffering. Many people are doctors and nutritionists in sports who follow vegan athletes, just as there are more and more athletes of any discipline who are vegans. Besides skiing, I practice hand bike, gym and a bit ‘of crossfit, and have always been strong, toned and muscular, I never had problems with nutritional drops
MMF: Who are your biggest inspirations?
Sofia: Every single person who has fought for the ideals of love and respect for other forms of life, and that continues strongly with the joy of the heart. All these people, who may be the philosopher Tom Regan and Gary Francione, the actor Jacquin Phoenix or even the singer Morrissey, the singer Alissa Withe-Gluz are great people and wonderful to me, and to think that “I am not alone” and that we in many to take practical action for a better world fills my heart with hope. Even those who are spreading an idea of disability as strength and power, not as “bad luck” is my very great sources of inspiration: I first do conferences (I’ve just been a TED speaker, in Verona) talking about disabilities as potential and not as a limit, so that maybe one day there will be no difference between disabled and non-disabled, and who knows … maybe the Olympics and Paralympics can expect celebrated in the same day, many athletes with different characteristics.
MMF: Between being a championship skier, model, learning to play guitar….it sounds like you are able to do anything you put your mind to. What are some of the next set of goals you have?
Sofia: Thank you very much again! Now I am dedicated to hand bike and workouts in the gym, and I’m always looking for sponsors because here in Italy no national sports company will finance anything. I had to pay coaches, equipment and travel with my money and I assure you that skiing is a really really expensive sport. I always want to try new sports too, so I’m more than happy to try something every new chance that comes around. I really hope to find some sponsors who support me, because I live for competition, and maybe I’ll win again! As I wrote before, I also keep conferences on sport / disability / vegan life, I manage a Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/sofiarighetti, where people can follow me in my various sport adventures and have advice for a vegan lifestyle. I care very much to my fitness and to my peace of mind, to be an inspiration to all people, disabled or not, who want to undertake a healthy lifestyle and respect for other creatures, and reach to forward that self confidence I’m lucky to have. Being a model of strength, determination and empathy doing all I can to improve the lives of other individuals, human or otherwise, it is an important milestone and I am grateful if I can succeed with my purpose.
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