Image copyright Olafia Kristinsdottir Image caption Kristinsdottir has been awarded the GC’s youth archery medal for men and women since 2014
Majestic Olafia Kristinsdottir is one of Iceland’s most famous athletes thanks to her trailblazing decision to pursue golf despite a personal history of heart-breaking injuries.
The 27-year-old female golfer broke down in tears as she dedicated her historic victory at the inaugural Eurospar Ladies Championship on Sunday to her father, brother and husband.
Kristinsdottir has endured five heart attacks, including one at 10 weeks old, to recover from a triple-organ failure which resulted in her having her spleen, liver and most of her kidney removed.
“It’s been the hardest year and a half of my life,” she told BBC Sport.
“I’ve been really lonely at home since I got injured, going through this time which was really heartbreaking, so it was great to come back to win.”
Kristinsdottir’s dark side
Image copyright Olafia Kristinsdottir Image caption Kristinsdottir beat England’s Salomón Neerva by three shots to win the Eurospar Ladies Championship
It’s a staggering story for a golfer who suffered so badly with illness, yet is now lauded as one of her country’s most famous women.
Before the start of the year, Kristinsdottir had no reason to worry about the future of golf in Iceland.
In fact, she had achieved a golfing ban, as her late father Tony had the life-saving operation in 2010.
Kristinsdottir watched as a curate plucked from the hallowed fjordland of Reykjavik broke down as he tried to kiss the 24-year-old, he was unable to follow her passion for golf.
Image copyright Olafia Kristinsdottir Image caption Kristinsdottir practises her swing during practice
Kristinsdottir’s backstory will surprise most but it’s one that inspired her – she had watched as her grandfather suffering from cancer during the 1,000km journey from her native city of Keflavik to Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik.
And it’s stories like that which were the foundations for Kristinsdottir’s desire to play golf – after a sudden heartbeat brought an end to an equestrian career, she turned to golf to stay active.
Following her heart-breaking diagnosis at 10 weeks old, life for Kristinsdottir became “more difficult”.
By the age of nine she had suffered multiple heart attacks and in 2009 she was advised to give up the sport.
“I know there’s nothing that can’t be done, and I knew that I could do something to change my life for the better. I knew I could still do this to be active,” she says.
Kristinsdottir’s decision to play on took many years and she has shown incredible bravery as she has battled injuries and she has used any moments to raise money for cancer charities.
She and her family travel for the tournaments to raise awareness and money for awareness for the disease.
The tough times led to Kristinsdottir writing an inspiring book about her experiences, and though she missed out on golfing success, she is now helping others.
“I’ve always told everyone to never stop moving forward and no matter what, you have to keep going,” she says.
“I was always very optimistic and I knew when I had to get on with things that the worst would be over. I feel so happy now.”
Her current sporting goal is to do it all over again
It was the “one thing” Kristinsdottir “needed to prove” – to win the Eurospar tournament. She needed to beat England’s former British Women’s Open champion Salomón Neerva in the final to become the first amateur golfer to triumph in a Ladies European Tour event and did so with six-under in a dramatic finish.
“This is an amazing achievement and I’m very happy that I got to do it, but I know that I’m never done, so I’m not going to stop there. I’ll keep going.”
And it’s no exaggeration to say Kristinsdottir will want to do more than win on the LPGA Tour, one of the four biggest women’s professional golfing tournaments in the world.
“I think this will give me the confidence to come back to the top level and believe in myself,” she says.
“I’m so grateful for this opportunity and it feels like a dream to be here.
“If they’d said to me one day ‘You’re going to win this tournament one day’, I wouldn’t have believed it.”