The athletes began the final bunched tightly together, before Lindsey Jacobellis took an early lead. The US athlete had been hoping to banish memories of Turin 2006, when she took a clear lead, but fell after pulling a celebratory trick and could only claim silver.
But Jacobellis took a high line early in the race, and was passed by Moioli and then Chloe Trespeuch (FRA). Moioli then took a clear lead, and never looked back. She topped her excellent performance as an 18-year-old at Sochi 2014, where she reached the final.
Behind her, the race for the podium could hardly have been closer. Pereira De Sousa Mabileau was the surprise in second place. She added an Olympic silver to her world junior bronze medal.
Samkova, who won gold at Sochi 2014 and was again one of the favourites, claimed bronze by a tiny margin ahead of Jacobellis, with two athletes falling right at the finish line. As ever, Samkova sported her lucky moustache, drawn on with face paint.
“I have no words,” said Moioli after the final. “It’s the best day of my life – really. No words. I started to cry when I crossed the finish line and I’m going to cry again maybe. I’m really happy. I just want to say thank you to all the people who helped me through this long trip from the last Olympics. Really, thanks to you my family, to my team, to my friends.”
Moioli’s family were no less emotional. “They were crying like me. They’re happy,” she said. “I’m so excited and this is a dream from when I was a little child. Don’t wake me up if it’s a dream.”
The 22-year-old could hardly explain how she felt on crossing the line. “I don’t know, I started crying and I thought, ‘Oh my God, I made it,’” she said. “All the stress went away and this is my moment. I’m so happy, so proud of my work and I can’t wait to enjoy this moment.”