Carolina Kostner: "I hope that my time is not over yet"


December 9, 2011
By Reut Golinsky
Photo © Eva Maria Jangbro (EMJO), Reut Golinsky

"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall". Those words of Confucius can definitely relate to three-time European champion Carolina Kostner, who after a few hard seasons proves that it is too early to give up on her. She medaled in both of her Grand Prix events last season, got silver in the Grand Prix Final and finished on the World's podium with bronze. This fall she continued with two silvers and a gold medal at the Grand Prix events she was assigned to. About choreography and the choreographers of her programs this season, the technical goals she sets for herself, growing up and gaining confidence; all in the talk we had in Paris after the gala practice.

During the press conference you said it was pretty hard to partake in three Grand Prix events and that you're really tired now. Does this mean you won't use this opportunity if you get it again next year?
I don't know... It was an important experience for me, just to see how I could handle it. And I think I did really well. Especially at this last one where I knew it was going to be hard because Liza (Tuktamysheva) had won one Grand Prix, Alissa (Czisny) had won one Grand Prix, and I had won one Grand Prix, making it the meeting of the best at the moment. I'm sure with better preparation I could have skated more beautiful programs, but in general I'm pleased with how it went. I'm sure that now we can have more trust in the work we've been doing. I just hope that I will find more time for practicing, especially my harder jumps and triple-triple combinations, because until now, with travelling and all, I've been more concentrated on the consistency in my programs.

With triple-triple you mean the triple toe - triple toe you're performing? Or are you thinking about the harder combination?
During practices I can also do a triple flip - triple toe combination, but it's still not that easy. And I would like to do at least one triple-triple combination in the long program; either a double Axel-triple toe in the second half, or a triple flip - triple toe in the beginning. I don't know which yet, but this is my goal and I'm looking forward to working on it. Those changes won't be made before the Grand Prix Final, probably only towards the bigger events.

Last year you had problems with flip and Lutz because of your injury.
Yes, until Christmas I didn't jump either flip or Lutz, even during practices. After Christmas I recovered a little bit and decided to try just one and it was the flip. Now my knee is perfectly fine, for which I'm really thankful, but I see that, especially on the Lutz, I missed a lot of practice at competitions; the consistency is not there yet.

Last season there were even talks about possible surgery. But in the end you didn't need it?
No, in the end I did a lot of physiotherapy instead, and I had a two and a half month break from skating. I actually enjoyed that time, enjoyed having some time for my university studies and everything else. I only started skating again in the middle of July, and I never thought I would be ready so fast.

Let's talk about your programs. You chose a more abstract direction with them, without a story. Is this something you prefer?
The important thing for me is to like the music and to enjoy skating to it. This year especially, we concentrated on the music, which is probably harder for the public to understand, rather than trying to tell some story. A soundtrack from a movie, for example, is easier to use. But when I listened to the music for the short program (Allegretto from Trio No. 2 by Dmitri Shostakovich) I thought "This is it!" I chose it because I thought we would have a lot of fun choreographing it. And for the long program (Concerto No. 23 by Wolfgang A. Mozart) I was inspired by the work of Jiŕí Kylián, who choreographed a very beautiful modern ballet to this music.

In the last few years you've worked with Lori Nichol. Did you ever consider trying another choreographer just to gain a different experience?
Yes, I considered it, but every time I end up going back to her. She is one of the best, and I just enjoy working with her and enjoy being able to work so professionally. She is a very hard working person, and it's nice to have a chance to work with someone with such passion.

Pasquale Camerlengo mentioned that he would love to work with you...
Maybe someday. I mean, it's not impossible. I love Pasquale's works and it would be a pleasure.

For your exhibition programs you worked with Stéphane Lambiel. How was it to work with him?
We worked together preparing programs for the show "Opera on Ice" (the opera/skating event which took place at the Arena of Verona on October the 1st. - ed.). It was a big help for me because I was busy preparing for competitions and he said: "Oh, I can help you, I will think about the choreography". I have to say that he really surprised me; I think he is a wonderful choreographer and he can have a really good future in that field. It was actually very hard for me to be able to do everything he showed me. When you only watch, you probably don't realize how good a skater he really is. But when I tried to repeat what he was showing me, we laughed a lot, because I fell many times. I already knew that his skating is exceptional, but now I saw another side of him.

So maybe you will work with him on competitive programs?
Why not? Everything is very open.

Do you usually have your own choreography ideas for your programs?
Yes, I like to be very free in my creativity. I show something, Lori shows something, and then we work and try to find "it" together. I don't enjoy working with someone who imposes on me what I have to do.

Was a young choreographer like Stéphane ready to listen to you?
Yes, it was not hard at all to work with him. I mean, we've been friends for so many years. I really enjoyed working with him.

You and Stéphane choreographed two show programs: "Carmen" and "Tosca". But at the gala of the recent competitions you skated only "Carmen". Will we see "Tosca"?
Maybe, yes, I don't know. In the "Opera on Ice", I enjoyed skating "Carmen" more, so I chose to keep it. But these programs are so different that... actually, I haven't thought about it but I could exchange them sometime. I want to keep both programs, they remind me of the nice moments we had in Verona. It was really special.

You were a headliner of this show, and you promoted it at the Venice film festival. How did it feel to be a celebrity, a star?
I'm not the kind of person who needs attention. I'm glad that I was able to have these beautiful experiences - the festival in Venice, being the star at the show in Verona - but it's not my goal. My goal is to bring beautiful skating to my country where skating hasn't been very popular for so many years. And if I have to go to Venice to do that, then I will go to Venice!

Do people recognize you on the street?
In Germany, where I train, not at all. It's a small town and if people recognize me it's because they know me personally.

So in your daily life you don't feel like celebrity?
No. I'm one out of three children in my family, and when I'm home I have to clean and help out like everybody else, it's very normal.

You mentioned the university earlier, you study art history. Is this just an interest or are you considering it as a future profession?
My grandfather was the director of the Art Academy in my home town, and my Mom was a Geometric arts teacher. Half of my family on my Dad's side is in sports, and my mother's side is more involved in arts. For me figure skating was a good mix of the two. In my family we talk a lot about art; I love it and I want to know more about it, especially when you live in Italy where art is so important. But I study it more for fun than for future jobs.

And your future will be in figure skating? As a coach, or a choreographer?
I like the idea of being able to do something for skating, whether it's a coaching or organization part. Somehow I want to help build something solid in Italy so we won't just wait and hope for some new Italian skater to emerge, but to have a big range of good skaters to choose from. I don't know if it's possible, but it's something I would love to do.

I spotted you in the audience yesterday during the free dance. Did you come to see Anna and Luca (Cappellini/Lanotte)?
I like to watch the ice dance live. I think television doesn't do the speed and the harmony the couples have on the ice justice. I had to go to the anti-doping control and I was happy that it went so fast that I was able to see the three best couples, I really enjoyed it. Especially Anna and Luca; I was happy that I made it to watch them and cheer for them. Once I finish a competition, I always try to watch the rest. I enjoy watching skating, but I don't like to watch it on TV.

Did you see something you especially liked during your Grand Prix events?
Aljona and Robin (Savchenko/Szolkowy)... I'm big fan of theirs! When they skate it's something very special. I just want to sit back and enjoy...

You said you're usually really nervous during competitions. Yesterday, during your free skate, there were some "Forza, Carolina!" chants. Does this help or disturb you?
I think it's good, because you feel that people want you to skate well. They are not your enemies, they wish you well and this energy is positive. And when you step on the ice, you're usually ready to go and you don't feel this stress anymore. It's mostly before, all the waiting between the practice and the competition, or between the 6 minutes of warm up and your skate. That's when I always try to keep my mind busy with something and not to think "what if? what if? what if?" My coach usually helps me; he is very good at understanding me, at directing me the right way, at talking to me and at just talking about different things.

Then this competition was probably harder for you because your coach wasn't here.
Yes, it was harder. I knew it was going to be harder, but my coach and I decided that it was a good time to grow up, to make it on my own. He was very pleased with how it went, and this experience gave me a lot of confidence that I can deal with such situations.

I notice your confidence growing with every competition. Do you realize that you have a good chance of winning Worlds this season?
I think I do realize that. I see this good chance; I've worked every year towards this goal. If it comes, it comes, and if it doesn't then it's not a big deal. I hope that my time is not over yet.
I'm happy I had the patience to overcome the difficult times. I'm thankful to the people who trusted in my work and gave me another chance; to my parents who encouraged me to go on and didn't say: "Stop and do something else". Now I'm much more grateful for every success. It's more valuable to me now to win a medal, to just manage a good performance; I enjoy it much more than I did before. Before I was never satisfied with what I did, it was never good enough. I know that I still have to work a lot on my jumps, and they are becoming harder and harder every year. But I enjoy each one I land in my programs.

You said in another interview that you prefer to take a year at the time and not think about the Olympic Games yet. What will influence your decision about participating again?
For me the Olympic Games were always a big dream. My cousin (Isolde Kostner) won three Olympic medals, my father was an Olympian; it runs in the family. I always viewed the Olympic Games as something very special, something out of reach. Unfortunately I've had pretty negative experiences. I have great memories from Turin when I was carrying the flag and everything was very beautiful. But because of the skating part, thinking about the Olympics doesn't make me feel very happy. That's why I don't want to think about it yet; I need to work on my confidence and on other things before I decide. I think I will finish this season and then consider it.


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