Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise: “Every competition is an opportunity to grow”


November 23, 2012
By Maria Bagdasarova
Photos © 2012 Absolute Skating by Vera Alexandrova, MG, Joy, Natasha Ponarina, Ia Remmel

Exactly one year ago, the paths of Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise of Italy crossed, unexpectedly even for themselves. The route they had to take to form this partnership was quite interesting.

Between 2007 and 2010 Nicole Della Monica skated at an international level with Yannick Kocon. The team finished 6th at the European Championships twice and competed at the Olympic Games in Vancouver. However, at the start of the new Olympic cycle Nicole decided to retire and the curtain seemed to be down on her competitive career. But as we see now; not for very long.

Matteo Guarise successfully competed in roller skating and won the World title in 2008 with his partner Sara Venerucci. In 2010 he decided to make a big change in his life and switched his focus to pairs in figure skating. But finding the right partner turned out to be no easy task; it took almost two years.

Absolute Skating caught up with Nicole and Matteo after their 7th-place finish at their maiden ISU Grand Prix, the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow.

You just finished your first Grand Prix event of your career together. What are your impressions?

Matteo: Overall this was a good competition for us. Despite some mistakes we are pretty excited about what we did. It was an incredible chance for us to compete in front of such a large audience on excellent ice against the top-level pair teams. Every competition is a valuable experience for us and an opportunity to grow.

You are soon competing again, at the NHK Trophy in Japan. How will you approach your second Grand Prix event?

Matteo: We will be getting ready with more confidence. Next week will not be overloaded with training; we will try to drop the tension. But the week after that we will work to the max of our capacity.

What will be the focus of your training until the NHK Trophy?

Nicole: Here in Moscow we lost some points on the lifts and death spirals. So we have to fix those elements to make sure we reach the planned levels in Japan.

You two have very different backgrounds in skating. Could you tell us the story of how you teamed up a year ago?

Matteo: I actually don’t know how everything went down.

Nicole: Me neither. (laughs)

Matteo: I started in figure skating three years ago without thinking too much. I tried to find a partner, first in Russia and then in the US. But nothing worked out. In addition there were injuries, bureaucracy and other issues. I got pretty frustrated and at one point I even thought that it probably was not meant to be. But one day I was told that Nicole was ready to come back to competitive skating and didn’t have a partner. Before quitting I decided to give it another shot and tried out with Nicole. And then in just a month we were at the Italian Nationals and in four months at the World Championships in Nice.

Your career in roller skating was very successful. What made you decide to start in figure skating?

Matteo: I would say I did everything I could in roller skating and I was still young and wanted to try something new. The world of roller skating is very nice and cozy, but in many ways it’s pretty limited. Figure skating surely offers more opportunities. In hindsight I absolutely don’t regret taking up roller skating; that sport gave me many good moments and so much experience. And now I feel that it was right to make this change and start from scratch in figure skating. Even for my motivation. I am ready to work hard and strive for new accomplishments.

Nicole, you have a different story. You retired in 2010 and now you are back to competitive skating. Why did you quit and what made you come back?

Nicole: I quit because I simply didn’t want to skate anymore. For a year I skated for fun twice a month. Then Matteo’s Italian coach called me and offered a tryout with him. I said yes, just to try and see. Matteo came back to Italy on November 24, 2011, on November 26 we started trying out and at the NHK Trophy 2012 we can celebrate exactly one year of partnership.

What lessons did you learn from the experiences of last season at Nationals and Worlds?

Matteo: We believe that we need to build a good base first. We have different techniques. So we don’t try difficult elements, but do what we for the moment are capable of, the best way we can. This is the way we are trying to go based on last year. We prepared our programs pretty quickly with easy elements, but to be executed with good quality.

What are your goals for the remainder of this Olympic cycle? Sochi 2014 is just around the corner.

Matteo: I would say that we are part of the 2018 generation, just like Vanessa James/ Morgan Ciprès or Anastasia Martiusheva/ Alexei Rogonov. So our goal for Sochi is to show our best at that moment. Maybe we won’t do a triple twist or another difficult element. We will skate the best we can and show people that we are a team that has a base to build on in the future and is willing to improve competition by competition.

Roller skating is not an Olympic sport, while figure skating is. Did you have the Olympics in mind when you started figure skating?

Matteo: For some reason everyone thinks that my goal in this adventure is to participate in the Olympics, but that’s not the case. It’s not enough for me just to take part, it’s very important to skate well and have a good competition. It will be hard in Sochi, but together with Nicole we will work towards becoming the best we can for the Olympics in 2018.

What was the most difficult thing you faced when you teamed up?

Nicole: I think the hardest part was to catch the unity in our skating and to start being “together” in what we do. Besides lifts and difficult elements, all the rest is about being together as one whole on the ice.

Matteo: In January 2013 I will have been skating for 3 years already, but I got a chance to start competing only a year ago when Nicole and I started skating together. Due to the lack of experience competitions are different for me. The format of events and warm-ups still feel new.

If we look at the technical side, what was the most difficult element for you to learn in figure skating?

Matteo: Technically I had to work a lot on the Salchow.

You changed coaches this year and started a collaboration with Oleg Vassiliev. Please tell us the story behind this change.

Matteo: Our team in Italy was working well. But together with our coaches Silvia Martina and Luca Mantovani we felt that we all needed an experienced coach around who would tell us which way to go. Oleg Vasiliev was available and now he is our primary coach. Silvia and Luca of course remain a part of our team, and now we all learn from Oleg.

How would you describe Oleg’s coaching style? Is he a strict coach?

Nicole: He is not really strict. He does his job and we do ours, but what we like is that he is always quiet. Even when he gets upset he never loses his temper. We understand that he is upset, but he does not show other people around that he is not happy.

Matteo: Yes, he really tries to always keep us calm. We work a lot on how to approach our goals, not only technically but mentally as well. The way we think about the goal is also important.

This season you use two different styles for your programs – a more contemporary for the short program and a classical one for your free. How did you pick the music?

Nicole: As for the short program, we wanted to do something different. We liked “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica a lot and found this version played by Apocalyptica. So it’s Metallica, but it’s not heavy metal. It’s classical and contemporary at the same time. In this program we need to work a little bit differently on our lines and body movement. But it’s only the start of the season and we still have time to polish it.

As far as the free program is concerned, we considered “The Phantom of the Opera” by Andrew Lloyd Webber last year, but at that time we were not ready for this music. So we do it this season.

According to your ISU profile you worked as a model. Are still involved in modeling and has it helped you on the ice?

Matteo: Modeling helped me a lot to get used to being among lots of people. Plus, there was a financial interest, because at that time it was pretty good money for me. I started when I was doing my last season in roller skating and then continued through the year before starting in figure skating. It worked pretty well for me and I did a lot of travelling. But it was not the same as sports. I feel that I need to compete and feel the tension, I’m used to it. I’ve been involved in sports all my life and my body craves it. Modeling was fun with all the parties and meeting people, but it’s not my life. I still do it, but I won’t take on a project if there’s a chance it’ll distract me from getting ready for competitions. Skating is my priority right now.

Nicole, what are the latest happenings in your off-ice life?

Nicole: I finished high school last June, because I had to quit studying when I started skating pairs with my previous partner. When I retired I decided to finish my schooling and I did. Now we are thinking about university, because next season the University Games take place, so it might be a good idea. But at the moment my life is 100% focused on skating.

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