Italy’s Luisa Rizzo, 21, a successful drone pilot, secured second place in the 2023 Athlete of the Year Award run by the International World Games Association.
In the last 24 hours of voting, the Air Sports champion narrowly lost the first spot to Racquetball superstar Conrrado Moscoso of Bolivia. Third place went to DanceSport couple Marius-Andrei Balan and Khrystyna Moshenska of Germany.
On January 31, Rizzo had amassed more than 55,000 votes in the final round, evidence of the amazing supporting community that follows her.
Luisa Rizzo accepted to share her initial emotional reactions with us in this exclusive interview.
Congrats! This is a big deal! What was your initial reaction upon receiving the news?
LR: I did not expect such news and I was really surprised to receive it. It’s a great honour for me to be chosen and to be given this opportunity. I am grateful for being proposed to represent Air Sports.
What does this recognition mean to you personally, and in your sports career?
LR: Personally, it is a big satisfaction, it means a lot to me. But I’m sure it means a lot to the entire Air Sports and Drone Racing community too. I am happy and honoured to bring visibility and pride to my discipline.
Do you feel your journey in Drone Sports has made an impact in your field and community?
LR: In my journey with Drone Sports I’ve met so many people and athletes. I’m glad to have contributed to the development of this field all over the world but especially in my country, Italy. Drone Racing is growing and I’m really happy about it, I have a strong passion and my goal is not only to win races but also to promote this sport and get people to join the community.
Did you expect your country and community to show so much support? How did you get your fans to support you?
LR: I didn’t expect so much support from all these people, this really warmed my heart and it’s a real victory for me, more than the Award itself. Seeing so many people rooting for me and voting was amazing, and I wish I could thank every one of them. I never ask for help because I like to reach my goals with my own strength, but sometimes you need the people around you to get to a result. In this case I would like to say that this result is not only mine but also for the people who helped me. This time I announced that I was participating in the contest, and everyone didn’t hesitate to vote and support me!
Did you follow the voting process? How did you live the exciting few days when it became clear you would be amongst the medallists?
LR: I followed the voting process and it was getting really intense in the last few days, it was so exciting! I didn’t expect so many votes and I couldn’t believe that I could be amongst the medallists.
How did family, friends and fellow athletes react?
LR: My family and friends were really happy and this motivated them to support me even more. I don’t know how the other athletes reacted since I don’t know them, but being an athlete with a sporting spirit, I’m sure everyone showed respect for their rivals.
What is your best memory from Birmingham 2022?
LR: My best memory from Birmingham 2022 was hands down the opening ceremony. I loved being amongst the other Italian athletes of all disciplines and of course with other nationalities too. It felt like being a family, to me it was like living a dream. And so many people were there to watch the Games and see what we could do. Amazing! It was also an honour to carry the Italian flag and represent my country.
What are you most excited about for the season to come?
LR: I’m excited to see what this season will bring. I’m preparing for the Italian Championship and for some stages of the World Cups in Europe. I hope to get the best results possible.
What have been the most challenging moments so far in your sports career? How did you overcome them?
LR: My most challenging moments were for sure the two World Championships I attended, the first one in China in 2018 and the second one in South Korea in 2023. The first time I did not know what to expect at all, but I just wanted to give my best and learn. The travel was very hard for me; taking flights for long distances is physically tiring for me, but if I want to do something then nothing can stop me. The second time I was competing for the gold medal in the women’s final; I had so much pressure but at the same time I desired that medal for so long and very strongly. I was very excited. Normally I can handle my emotions, but that one time I wasn’t able to do so, and made a mistake that made me lose the gold. I managed to take the bronze medal though, and I’m happy anyway. But this is one more reason to go for gold next time!
Who or what has been your biggest source of inspiration and support along the way?
LR: My inspirations are all the athletes around the world. I admire every one of them, I like seeing people want to improve and constantly put effort in something they love. All credit to them! The people that support me the most are my family and friends. I couldn’t be where I am today without them!
What advice would you give to aspiring young people in your sport?
LR: My advice is to never give up and always try, never take anything for granted and if you think you are not good or not capable of something, it’s not true! Just believe and everything becomes possible.
What are you goals for TWG 2025 in Chengdu? How do you plan to build on this achievement in the future?
LR: As Drone racing will be present in the next edition of The World Games, I hope to get and deserve the possibility to participate, and of course I will do as best as I can to get a good result.
The International World Games Association (IWGA) is a non-profit-making international sports organisation recognised and supported by the International Olympic Committee. The IWGA comprises 38 International Member Sports Federations. It administers and promotes The World Games (TWG), a multi-sport event held every four years that features around 35 sports on its programme. The next edition of TWG will be in Chengdu (CHN) from 7-17 August 2025. 5,000 participants from more than 100 countries are expected to take part in this 12th edition. The latest Games were hosted by Birmingham, Alabama (USA).