Bruna Moura nearly died trying to get to the Olympics. Now she’s back on her skis.

Bruna Moura

On Jan. 16, 2022, Bruna Moura received the news that she had worked more than a decade for: She made Brazil’s Olympic team.

Eleven days later, Moura was in an Italian hospital. She never made it to the Winter Games. She was lucky to be alive. The other person in her van did not survive.

Moura, a 28-year-old cross-country skier, competed on Wednesday for the first time in 13 months. She finished ninth in a race with 38 women, mostly from nations without winter sports tradition. The top 10 qualified for next week’s 10km at the world championships in Planica, Slovenia.

On Thursday, Moura placed 78th out of 99 skiers in the first medal event of worlds, the sprint. She deemed the comeback successful, and hopes it leads to the next Winter Olympics in Italy in 2026.

In an interview last month, Moura described what she feels in a cross-country skiing race.

“Everything’s burning,” she said. “We ask ourselves, ‘Why are we doing this?’ Because it’s too painful. But at the same time, it’s like anger. You really want to do it. You really want to cross the finish line, just like if it’s a big challenge. And if you cross the finish line, you are a hero. That’s how it feels.”

Back in 2011, Moura, then 17, was a promising mountain biker. She was coached by an Olympian, competed on the junior World Cup circuit and strove to represent Brazil at the 2016 Rio Games.

But a medical exam revealed a heart condition that required surgery and, ultimately, led her to cross-country skiing. The winter sport became more appealing for a few reasons.

During her recovery, Brazilian sports officials gifted her equipment for roller skiing, which cross-country skiers use for summer training. She took to it. It was also difficult to get sponsors back to return to mountain biking. Plus, her mountain bike coach was actually a two-sport Olympian, switching back and forth between mountain bike and cross-country skiing.

Come 2015, Moura competed at the world junior championships in biathlon. Later that year, she entered her first international race in cross-country skiing, where Olympic qualifying is slightly easier for non-traditional winter sports nations.

She competed in her first world championships in cross-country skiing in 2017 and by January 2022 was in contention for the second and last Brazil women’s Olympic berth. At the last qualifying event in Switzerland, she finished her race and called her partner, Dutchman Pascal Luiten, who tracked the live results and told her she earned the Olympic spot.

“I started crying and jumping,” Moura said. “It was really, really, let’s say a fantastic day.”

Two days later, Moura tested positive for COVID-19 with symptoms that were not life-threatening. She quarantined in Austria for 10 days and changed her itinerary to get from Europe to China.

On Jan. 27, she could leave. She booked a van through a car service to take her, and her ski equipment, about four hours north to Munich, where she planned to stay a few nights before flying to Beijing.

Moura woke up around 5 a.m. to wipe down the room in the house where she quarantined. The van arrived at 7. She learned from text messages that the driver was a Russian named Yevgeny who lived in Berlin.

She remembers details about that morning that altered their estimated arrival time. Yevgeny at first parked behind the house, but she needed him to be in the front where her three large bags were. The GPS had to correct after they took the wrong street leaving the Austrian town.

Yevgeny drove fast enough that Moura became afraid and instinctively looked for the seatbelt. She said that, growing up in Brazil, she always made sure that everybody had their belts on before starting the car. On this morning, she did not initially follow her own advice. Minutes into the trip, she looked at the loose belt and thought.

“Do I wear it, or not because the way he’s driving?” she recalled a year later. “Maybe if I do not wear it, I have time to react, open the door and jump. That’s crazy thoughts of course. But that’s what I thought at the moment. … Then I put it on and tried to sleep.”

About an hour later, Moura woke up. The van was still.

“I was scared,” she said. “I opened my eye, and I remember thinking to myself, ‘You were sleeping. You are waking up now.’ … I saw so many people around me, and I did not understand anything because I did not remember anything when I saw them. I got scared, like what the hell is happening here? And then all the pain started, and it was hard to breathe.”

Images showed the van up against a guard rail. The windshield and everything below it was mangled, the van’s insides and one tire spilled into the side of a two-lane road. On the other side of the road, a large truck lie on its side.

A medical helicopter took Moura to a hospital. She broke an arm in three places, had three broken ribs, lung damage and a broken left foot.

When she was stabilized, they brought her to a room. She remembers an old woman entered and told her what happened, a few hours after the accident. “Until then, I didn’t know anything,” Moura said.

“You had a collision with a truck,” Moura was told. “There was nothing to do for the driver. He died with impact.”

Moura and Luiten later learned from a police report that Yevgeny, the driver, had a job in music, and that his child went to Italy to identify him and pick up his belongings.

“I happened to see somewhere that he was buried in a cemetery in Berlin,” Luiten said.

Moura said that a doctor told her that three things saved her. First, sitting in the back seat. If she had been in the front, she would have died with Yevgeny. Second, she would not have survived if she didn’t buckle her seat belt. Third, she would have lost her left foot if not for durable shoes.

After two surgeries, she was discharged the next week and taken 11 hours by ambulance taxi to the Netherlands, where she lives with Luiten. They rented a hospital bed and put it in the living room.

The first night was the worst.

“All night it was just moaning from pain.” said Luiten, who slept on a couch in the room. “That did not stop until the morning.”

She was prescribed stronger medication the next day. That’s about the time the Olympics began.

“I wanted to watch it,” she said. “At first, it was not easy. The Opening Ceremony was like a punch in my face.”

Luiten said they watched the Games all day every day.

“It was mostly a matter of trying to enjoy the fact that people were visiting her, caring about her, and there was sports to watch as a distraction,” he said. “Trying to get her mind off the pain, especially at night.”

She spent most of her time in bed for those first three weeks, the rest in a wheelchair. She began walking, first with crutches, and then, two months after the accident, on her own. By August, she began roller skiing again. She was determined to ski on snow, though her foot still hurt.

“I was already aiming at 2026,” she said. ” Yeah, it hurts like hell now, but it will not stay like this forever.”

Also that summer, she began working at a bike shop and then taking kickboxing classes. Co-workers learned her story and set up a Gofundme page to aid with the costs of becoming an international athlete again.

In the fall, Moura ran for the first time since the accident. Late last month, she skied on snow for the first time in a year. Then two weeks ago, she traveled back to Austria, to the same place where she quarantined a year ago. On a bus, she passed by the site of the accident and shared the video on her Instagram story.

The 2026 Winter Olympic cross-country skiing races will be about 50 miles south of where last year’s tragedy occurred.

Moura said she asks herself daily why she continues this pursuit, which began as a mountain biker more than a decade ago.

“When I decided to become an athlete, I decided that I wanted to get to the highest I could,” she said. “When you are an athlete, the highest you can get is the Olympics.”

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Ilia Malinin eyed new heights at figure skating worlds, but a jump to gold requires more


At 18 years old, Ilia Malinin already has reached immortality in figure skating for technical achievement, being the first to land a quadruple Axel jump in competition.

The self-styled “Quadg0d” already has shown the chutzpah (or hubris?) to go for the most technically difficult free skate program ever attempted at the world championships, including that quad Axel, the hardest jump anyone has tried.

It helped bring U.S. champion Malinin the world bronze medal Saturday in Saitama, Japan, where he made more history as the first to land the quad Axel at worlds.

But it already had him thinking that the way to reach the tops of both the worlds and Olympus might be to acknowledge his mortal limits.

Yes, if Malinin (288.44 points) had cleanly landed all six quads he did instead of going clean on just three of the six, it would have closed or even overcome the gap between him and repeat champion Shoma Uno of Japan (301.14) and surprise silver medalist Cha Jun-Hwan (296.03), the first South Korean man to win a world medal.

That’s a big if, as no one ever has done six clean quads in a free skate.

And the energy needed for those quads, physical and mental, hurts Malinin’s chances of closing another big gap with the world leaders: the difference in their “artistic” marks, known as component scores.

Malinin’s technical scores led the field in both the short program and free skate. But his component scores were lower than at last year’s worlds, when he finished ninth, and they ranked 10th in the short program and 11th in the free this time. Uno had an 18.44-point overall advantage over Malinin in PCS, Cha a 13.47 advantage.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Chock, Bates, and a long road to gold | Results

As usual in figure skating, some of the PCS difference owes to the idea of paying your dues. After all, at his first world championships, eventual Olympic champion Nathan Chen had PCS scores only slightly better than Malinin’s, and Chen’s numbers improved substantially by the next season.

But credit Malinin for quickly grasping the reality that his current skating has a lot of rough edges on the performance side.

“I’ve noticed that it’s really hard to go for a lot of risks,” he said in answer to a press conference question about what he had learned from this competition. “Sometimes going for the risks you get really good rewards, but I think that maybe sometimes it’s OK to lower the risks and go for a lot cleaner skate. I think it will be beneficial next season to lower the standards a bit.”

So could it be “been-there, done-that” with the quad Axel? (and the talk of quints and quad-quad combinations?)

Saturday’s was his fourth clean quad Axel in seven attempts this season, but it got substantially the lowest grade of execution (0.36) of the four with positive marks. It was his opening jump in the four-minute free, and, after a stopped-in-your tracks landing, his next two quads, flip and Lutz, were both badly flawed.

And there were still some three minutes to go.

Malinin did not directly answer about letting the quad Axel go now that he has definitively proved he can do it. What he did say could be seen as hinting at it.

“With the whole components factor … it’s probably because you know, after doing a lot of these jumps, (which) are difficult jumps, it’s really hard to try to perform for the audience,” he said.

“Even though some people might enjoy jumping, and it’s one of the things I enjoy, but I also like to perform to the audience. So I think next season, I would really want to focus on this performing side.”

Chen had told me essentially the same thing for a 2017 Ice Network story (reposted last year by about his several years of ballet training. He regretted not being able to show that training more because of the program-consuming athletic demands that come with being an elite figure skater.

“When I watch my skating when I was younger, I definitely see all this balletic movement and this artistry come through,” Chen said then. “When I watch my artistry now, it’s like, ‘Yes, it’s still there,’ but at the same time, I’m so focused on the jumps, it takes away from it.”

The artistry can still be developed and displayed, as Chen showed and as prolific and proficient quad jumpers like Uno and the now retired two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan have proved.

For another perspective on how hard it is to combine both, look at the difficulty it posed for the consummate performer, Jason Brown, who had the highest PCS scores while finishing a strong fifth (280.84).

Since Brown dropped his Sisyphean attempts to do a clean quad after 26 tries (20 in a free skate), the last at the 2022 U.S. Championships, he has received the two highest international free skate scores of his career, at the 2022 Olympics and this world meet.

It meant Brown’s coming to terms with his limitations and the fact that in the sport’s current iteration, his lack of quads gives him little chance of winning a global championship medal. What he did instead was give people the chance to see the beauty of his blade work, his striking movement, his expressiveness.

He has, at 28, become an audience favorite more than ever. And the judges Saturday gave Brown six maximum PCS scores (10.0.)

“I’m so happy about today’s performance,” Brown told media in the mixed zone. “I did my best to go out there and skate my skate. And that’s what I did.”

The quadg0d is realizing that he, too, must accept limitations if he wants to achieve his goals. Ilia Malinin can’t simply jump his way onto the highest steps of the most prized podiums.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 12 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to

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Shoma Uno repeats as world figure skating champion; Ilia Malinin tries 6 quads for bronze


Japan’s Shoma Uno repeated as world figure skating champion, performing the total package of jumps and artistry immediately after 18-year-old American Ilia Malinin attempted a record-tying six quadruple jumps in his free skate to earn the bronze medal.

Uno, 25 and the leader after Thursday’s short program, prevailed with five quad attempts (one under-rotated) in Saturday’s free skate.

He finished, fell backward and lay on home ice in Saitama, soaking in a standing ovation amid a sea of Japanese flags. Japan won three of the four gold medals this week, and Uno capped it off with guts coming off a reported ankle injury.

He is the face of Japanese men’s skating after two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu retired in July and Olympic silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama missed most of this season with leg and ankle injuries.

“There were many shaky jumps today, but I’m happy I was able to get a good result despite not being in a good condition these past two weeks,” Uno said, according to the International Skating Union (ISU). “I know I caused a lot of concerns to everyone around me, but I was able to pay them back and show my gratitude with my performance today.”

Silver medalist Cha Jun-Hwan became the first South Korean man to win a world championships medal. Cha, a 21-year-old who was fifth at the Olympics, had to change out broken skate boots before traveling to Japan, one year after withdrawing from worlds after a 17th-place short program, citing a broken skate boot.


Malinin, ninth in his senior worlds debut last year, planned the most difficult program of jumps in figure skating history — six quads, including a quad Axel. Malinin is the only person to land a quad Axel in competition and did so again Saturday. He still finished 12.7 points behind Uno and 7.59 behind Cha.

Malinin had the top technical score (jumps, spins, step sequences) in both programs, despite an under-rotation and two other negatively graded jumps among his seven jumping passes in the free skate.

His nemesis was the artistic score, placing 10th and 11th in that category in the two programs (18.44 points behind Uno). Unsurprising for the only teen in the top 13, who is still working on that facet of his skating, much like a young Nathan Chen several years ago.

“After doing a lot of these jumps — hard, difficult jumps — it’s really hard to try to perform for the audience,” said Malinin, who entered worlds ranked second in the field by best score this season behind Uno.

Chen, who is unlikely to compete again after winning last year’s Olympics, remains the lone skater to land six fully rotated quads in one program (though not all clean). Malinin became the youngest U.S. male singles skater to win a world medal since Scott Allen in 1965. He was proud of his performance, upping the ante after previously trying five quads in free skates this season, but afterward weighed whether the risk was worth it.

“Sometimes going for the risk, you get really good rewards, but I think that maybe sometimes it’s OK to lower the risks and try not to take as much risk and go for a lot cleaner skate,” he said. “I think that’ll be beneficial to do next season is to lower the standards a bit.”

Malinin was followed by Frenchman Kévin Aymoz, who before the pandemic was the world’s third-ranked skater behind Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu, then placed ninth, 11th and 12th at the last three global championships.

Jason Brown, a two-time U.S. Olympian, was fifth in his first international competition since last year’s Olympics. He was the lone man in the top 15 to not attempt a quad, a testament to his incredible artistic skills for which he received the most points between the two programs.

“I didn’t think at the beginning of the year that I even would be competing this year, so I’m really touched to be here,” the 28-year-old said, according to the ISU. “I still want to keep going [competing] a little longer, but we’ll see. I won’t do promises.”

Earlier Saturday, Madison Chock and Evan Bates became the oldest couple to win an ice dance world title and the second set of Americans to do so. More on that here.

World championships highlights air Saturday from 8-10 p.m. ET on NBC, and the NBC Sports app.

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