Interview with Stefania Berton/Ondrej Hotarek

in Oberstdorf, August 2012

Q: How do you appraise the past season?

Ondrej: Well, the past past season was good, very good, in the beginning, especially the Grand Prixs. We had two placements we didn't expect. Well, we wanted to achieve that, but... That was really good. We got a medal at Cup of Russia and ended up fourth in Japan.

Stefania: I mean, we knew we were ready to get the podium, but since nobody from our country did it before, we just wanted to break that wall, you know.

Ondrej: And then came Europeans. We didn't have the best preparation, because I was a bit sick a few weeks before. But we still decided to go and do our best and what we did was our best and it was only fourth place. We could have maybe made more, but we will see this year.

We will just get ready.
World championships was a good skate. We made a few mistakes along, which costed us one place. But all in all I think it was a great season.

Q: As you said, you have come close to the podium and even got a bronze medal in the Grand Prix. What do you think you need to crack the top 3 at Europeans?

Stefania: First of all, last year we were that close but we didn't make it. I'm sure if we could have had a better preparation, because we actually didn't skate for two weeks before going to Sheffield. So, I mean, there, even with the time off that we had, it was possible. This year it's going to be a little harder, of course, everyone's gonna skate, of course, but we think we've improved a lot, because we have been working on new elements. New lifts, our twist is better, much better, and we are faster and we are getting used to skate together. And our strengh is also adding up. And before, we were pulling each other a little bit, because we both wanted to do our job, but we still needed to learn how to do it together. And now we are getting there.

So what we need to do is to skate clean. To get on the ice, to perform, to show the new programs, which are really, really interesting and funny for us to do and for people to watch. We're gonna have the chance to get there and it's for sure that we're gonna try to do more than we did till now. And, you know, we don't give marks, so we can just enjoy our part.

Ondrej: But we feel confident. With the new elements and programs we feel very comfortable on the ice, faster, stronger, with less things to worry about. We are expecting a lot from this season.

Q: The new lifts are great! My congratulations!

Ondrej: Thank you!

Stefania: Thank you! They are fun!

Ondrej: We worked on them so long and the main idea was for people to say „Wow, we've never seen something like this before." And that's what we want to with the programs and the elements.

Stefania: Yeah, and we finally can do it because we have been skating [together] a little more and I have been learning more pairs stuff. Now I'm not new to it anymore, but last year I was. I enjoy it now, before I was afraid of doing lifts and twists, I didn't like it so much. Now I can enjoy it because we both go there and feel how good we are right now.

Ondrej: We're at a point where both of us are coming with suggestions for new things. She has new ideas, I have new ideas and that's very complimentory. It really helps and I think you can really see it.

Stefania: And thanks to the help of our coach Franca Bianconi we've been asking many specialists. I.e. for Patrick Venerucci for the lifts, he's the World Champion in roller skating and he has been helping us and Jason Dungjen back in Detroit, who helped us improve in all the skating things, like twists and such, all the things for a pair's skater. And we've been doing choreographys with Pasquale Camerlengo and Anjelica Krylova. We had so much fun, 'cause we created a story for both our programs and our musics are really passionate, but also full of energy at the same time.

Ondrej: Yeah, we work with a lot of people. We try to get the best from everybody...

Stefania: ...and then we mix it together....

Ondrej: Yeah, but the closest team is me, Stephi and Franca and then we bring other people into the group when we need to work on specific things. Once we get back to Milan it's just work, work, work, programs, programs, programs... (laughs)

Stefania: We are working off ice with our athletic coach Gianni Perricelli. He's been doing speed-walking and has been to the Olympics and we have been doing a good job with him.

Ondrej: And this is all thanks to our new sports group, the Italian police corps "GRUPPO SPORTIVO FIAMME AZZURRE", which helps us now with the preparation and...

Stefania: ...they follow us, also from a medical point of view. Now we have two helpers. The federation, which always supported us, and the police. They are making us feel like we're in a big family.

Ondrej: It's the same sports group Carolina [Kostner] is in. That really changed a lot for us.

Stefania: Yeah, it improved our lifestyle a lot (laughs)

Q: How did you adapt going from short-time to long-time training in the states?

Ondrej: Well, we didn't really go to the states for a really long period. Last time it has been five weeks...

Stefania:...and another two the other time... So overall during the summer we have been there a couple months and we want to go back there before competitions are gonna be in Canada, because first of all it's closer and it's always good to refresh the tecnique...

Ondrej:...yeah, and work on the programs...'cause we have our choreographers there.

Stefania: Yeah, but our base is still in Milano and it's gonna be like this.

Ondrej: Yeah, we really like to be the Italian team that trains in Italy and if we need help we can go to the US.

Q: There's a big Italian skating community there. It must feel like you're at home.

Stefania: Plus, we've been spending there a lot of time, even if it wasn't for a long period each time, so we know the people there already. They know us and always welcome us.

Ondrej: It's not only the Italians, there is a great group of people there.

Stefania: Yeah, even the coaches and the guys who are skating there. There are simply a lot of competitiors, high level competitors, that's good.

Ondrej: We get along great with a lot of single skaters there.

Stefania: Yeah, and we want to thank Alissa and Jeremy, because they have been hosting us.

Q: Didn't he even have the idea for the new short?

Stefania: Yes! Basically Jeremy gave us the music for the programs. We've had some issues before, because our ideas weren't working, so we were revealing our problems and Jeremy came out with the idea out of nowhere.

Ondrej: He said „I'm not gonna use it, so if you want it, just take it."

Stefania: And we loved it!

Ondrej: From the first time!

Stefania: Oh yeah, we were so exited! So we want to tell the whole world we're really thankful to Jeremy!

Ondrej: Sometimes it's just a coincidence how thinks work out.

Q: Where and how does your preparation for the season continue? And what are you working on most?

Stefania: Well we're gonna keep on working on our condition, 'cause we wanna be super-ready to get through the programs. We have been working on the elements so hard, now they're solid!

Ondrej: Yeah, there are no more issues with the elements. We will work overall on every aspect of the programs, but mostly on our condition.

Stefania: It has to seem effortless, while we do hard stuff! We gonna keep on working in Milano with Franca and our staff and we're gonna go back to Detroit as soon as we can. When we have a litte more then a couple of weeks between competitions, because we gonna do hard practice there, for sure. And we're gonna be in Detroit for a while before Skate Canada. And we're coming back for Bompard, which is like two or three weeks later, and then we're gonna figure out which next senior event we're gonna do and then...

Ondrej:...and then we're gonna get ready for Europeans.

Stefania: Yeah, training hard!

Ondrej: Cause this year...

Stefania: But we wanna do a good Italian championship, though.

Ondrej: Exactly!

Q: Why are you going to Bratislava? Why not come to Oberstdorf for the Nebelhorn Trophy?

Stefania: It's a week later, which is a little bit better for our timing.

Ondrej: Bratislava works better because it's two weeks before Skate Canada and Oberstdorf would be a bit too early with a big break between the competitions.

Stefania: We don't wanna get too much time, you know? We just wanna compete and keep the level and get ready to do a little more. And then get down a couple of days before the next competition. We're gonna have a longer period of time to prepare for Europeans, and, of course, Worlds.

Q: How would you describe your character as a pair on the ice?

Ondrej: We definitely both have strong personalities and we often want to do it our own way.

Stefania: And the thing is, we usally want the same thing but voice it in a different way, so we think we don't understand each other, but the problem really is that we are saying it in another way. But we intend the same things. We are both hard workers, we like to achieve our goals, no matter what. But sometimes we get into this stupid thing where we say the same thing with different words and don't understand each other.

Ondrej: And our character in skating is to try to live and play the character the music implies. One year it's a passionate Tango, the other year it can be a funny latin dance.

Stefania: We always act as we were someone else, like the first year we've been doing Notre Dame de Paris, so I was Esmeralda and he was Phoebus and we had a love story there, and then we had this tango, where he was looking for me in the beginning and I was falling in love with him and we then danced together.

Ondrej: We really tried to picture the story in the program when we build it. And this year we have a big story behind the programs and we live it when we skate it.

Stefania: This year we can invent our own story. A few years ago we picked Romeo and Juliet. That's something that was written down. And you cannot do Romeo and Julia and do something else. So this year we can create something on our own and that is more interesting.

Ondrej: It's more fun.

Q: I think that can't be easy.

Stefania: But we have a lot of fantasy.

Ondrej: It's not just trying to follow the music, we wanna think about it and think about a story. And we can focus more on the story, because we can now focus less on the rest, as we are used to skating together now and have the elements solid.

Q: A fun question: Ondrej, if Stefania were sent to an isolated island, what would she take?

Ondrej: Well, if you [Stefania] were going there you would take your Ipad to call your boyfriend...

Stefania: Oh, well, then I would bring my boyfriend. And he [Ondrej] would bring... ok, a play station for sure and probably Coca Cola.

Ondrej: Yeah, I never play without Coca Cola.

Stefania: And you said I would bring my boyfriend?

Ondrej: Yeah, because you always have your boyfriend with you, online. And if you couldn't bring him, you would...

Stefania:...bring some sort of internet connection (laughs)

Q: Thank you for the nice interview and all the best.


collaboration: Nicole Graff