02.08.2022 16:00

Atleti Polimi – Lisa Gava

Interview with the downhill cyclist and Materials and Nanotechnology Engineering student at the Politecnico di Milano

As part of a series of meetings with Polimi athletes, this month we introduce Lisa Gava, 21 years of age, from Vittorio Veneto. Lisa is a downhill cyclist and studies Materials Engineering and Nanotechnologies at the Politecnico di Milano.

Downhill is a spectacular and exhilarating style of mountain biking, practiced on steep and patchy terrain often characterised by jumps, falls, stony areas and other obstacles.

Hello Lisa, tell us how it all started with your love of downhill?

When I am asked why I do such an adrenaline-filled and dangerous sport I like to say that it’s all my brother’s and father’s fault! It had always been a hobby for them, that they enjoyed when my brother was not involved in motocross races. One summer, in Canazei, they rented a bicycle for me and took me with them; I would have been 14.

I didn’t think it was bad as a sport, but neither was I particularly enthusiastic, to tell the truth. Nevertheless, it remained an occasion for the three of us to be together. One year later, my brother entered me in my first regional downhill competition and I started to see something more interesting in this sport, which I was practising on-and-off anyway.

So, from nowhere, in 2017 I launched myself into my first national competitions and this passion has grown bigger and bigger every year since then.

Which cyclists or sports people in general inspire you?

There is no one person in particular who inspires me. For me, it is many people, especially women, that I look to for their courage and determination. Every one of them has their own story and journey to tell and one can learn a great deal by getting to know how they approached the difficulties they have encountered in their sporting careers.

Which of the competitions you have participated in thrilled you the most?

In the summer of 2019 I participated in my first qualifiers for a world cup race in Val di Sole. According to riders, the track, called Black Snake, is one of the toughest in the world.

It was raining that morning, I was skidding a lot and anxiety levels were very hight. The qualifier did not go well – I was too affected by the anxiety – but the atmosphere created by the Italian fans and the excitement of racing alongside the best downhill athletes in the world for the first time ensured that the day was unforgettable.

Lisa Gava on her mountain bike
Lisa Gava
Lisa Gava on her mountain bike
Lisa Gava
Lisa Gava on her mountain bike
Lisa Gava
Lisa Gava on her mountain bike
Lisa Gava
Lisa Gava on her mountain bike

What do you think has been your greatest sporting success?

I have gained some success over the years, like third place in the European Cup in 2021, the iXS European Downhill Cup.

Can I say that now my best success will be the next one?

What does sport mean to you? Do you think it has taught you something about other areas of life too?

Sport has probably been the main cause, in a positive way, of my personal growth over recent years, and it has become my outlet. It has taught me to understand that I often place useless and imaginary limits on myself, it has taught me to believe in my ability and that it takes commitment to achieve your own goals, without making comparisons to other people’s journeys. 

Why did you choose to study Materials Engineering and Nanotechnologies? Why at the Politecnico di Milano specifically?

I always found the field of materials, as well as their importance in any application, interesting and innovative. I found the programme proposed by the Politecnico di Milano to be comprehensive and very interesting. This is in addition to the centrality of this great city and the ease with which I can move around using public transport (especially with my bike).

How do you manage to balance training and studying?

It is a good challenge! It takes a lot, a vast amount, of organisation and dedication. Personally, I find it satisfying to have a commitment other than studying, because it allows me to take advantage of the time dedicated to books and, above all, it gives me the opportunity to disconnect a little.

How does the Dual Career programme help you with this?

The Dual Career programme allows me to manage the summer exam session in such a way that I do not miss out on competitions. This winter I was also given the opportunity to make use of the Giurati Sports Center and I really appreciated the offer.

Are you satisfied with your choice of Politecnico di Milano?

Yes, it is a very valid university and offers students many services; even if, unfortunately, the periods of quarantine and online teaching did not allow me to experience this University to the fullest.

What advice would you give to an athlete who doesn't know whether or not to go to university?

Making a living from sport is a great unknown for me, especially as mine is a minor discipline. University allows me to have a basis for a more concrete future, but takes nothing away from the opportunity to continue my own sporting career. Sacrifice is necessary, without a doubt, but for me the ultimate satisfaction is even greater. 

Do you find time for your private life too? What are your passions besides sport and studying?

I manage to find it because I also have to dedicate time to my friends and family, even if it means skipping a training session every so often.

I don’t exactly have another passion, but I like trying new activities a lot, especially if they are adrenaline-filled, going for walks in the mountain and travelling.

What do you like about Milan?

I like how it is very central and the security of being able to find everything I need nearby. For weekend training sessions, I almost always travel by train, as I don’t have a car, and I can get almost anywhere easily from Milan.

What are your goals and dreams for the future, sporting and otherwise?

Last season was difficult for me from the mental point of view; therefore, my goals for the competitive season that will start soon are mainly focussed on myself and my will to give 100% to every race.

This does not exclude my desire to wear the national jersey one day. In my working future I dream of doing something as stimulating as possible and – why not? – linked to the world of sport.

To find out about the Dual Career programme, which helps our students who practise sport at the highest level to pursue both their sporting and educational activities with confidence and success, visit the Polimi Sport website.