Danielle Montalbano: "I would have been here either way, if it were pairs or singles"

October 30, 2013
By Maria Jangbro (EMJO), assistant Lena Halonen
Photos © Maria Jangbro (EMJO)

While studying the entry list for this year's Nebelhorn Trophy, a well-known pair skating name was listed in the ladies' event: Danielle Montalbano.
We had a talk with her pair coach, Kyoko Ina, two seasons ago in Obersdorf, (link to that interview) and have followed the Israeli pair skaters' development ever since.
We were therefore surprised, but also curious, about her choice to participate as a single lady instead of pairs with Evgeni Krasnopolski.
It turned out Danielle has had quite a journey during the past months, here is her story:

It was surprising to see your name in the entry list of the ladies' event!

I would have been here either way, if it were pairs or singles. I broke my ankle in November 2012 during a twist lift and I had two surgeries involving seven screws and a plate. I was out for like six months. When I came back and was ready to start my rehab, I found out that my former partner wanted to start on a new journey rather than continuing with me. I was informed it was because he thought I wouldn't heal in time for the Olympics.
Maybe he didn't have enough faith in me, I am not sure, but I know I didn't want to quit since I had come so far already.
I asked my federation if they would support me as a single skater and they said absolutely! I have a really great support group so I thought I would come here and give it a shot.

Have you skated singles before?

I have, a very long time ago under the 6.0 system.

When did you start skating?

I started when I was four so I have been skating for twenty years now. I did want to skate pairs when I was little, but I had a lot of other things going on. My parents didn't know if they wanted me in pairs; they were a little nervous. I didn't start pairs until I was nineteen. I took a little break from skating when I was in college; I had moments when I didn't know if I wanted to be a "normal" kid or if I wanted to skate.
But I came back to the ice.
The Israeli skater Tamar Katz said "why don't you skate for Israel"? So I contacted the Israeli federation and they actually had a boy who needed a partner.
I always wanted to try pairs so why not? He came and that was it; we teamed up and trained until recently. We worked really hard and competed at three World championships and two Europeans.
I am really happy with what we accomplished.

What did you study in college?

Business management, just in case, since I wasn't sure if I wanted to be "normal" (laughs) or continue with skating.

If you were "normal", is business management what you'd be doing?

My family has its own business and my dad always said school is very important, so I continued my studies as well as skating.
I wanted to understand what my father does and someday possibly join the family business. My alternate goal when I was younger was to be a corporate party planner, like plan weddings. I love coordinating that kind of stuff.

Well, or you could plan figure skating parties like the skaters' party or the banquet after championships!

What does a day look like here at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf?

Today I will support my team mates; the men and the ice dancers. I will relax and just walk around a bit, and then train some more.

What are your future plans?

Right now I am not sure, but I think I will be doing the Ice Challenge in Graz, Austria, the Golden Spin in Zagreb, Croatia and the Ukrainian open and then we might have something going on in Israel too.
My main goal is to get the required points to go to Worlds this year. It is my ultimate goal to go to Worlds as a single skater.
That would be a great accomplishment for me, since I have gone through so much this past year.

Are you not aiming for Europeans?

I already got my points for the free program but I think I still need the points for the short program. I think that should be alright after the next competition.


Have you decided to continue as a single skater?

I wake up every day with a different thought.
If there was the right person at the right time I think I could consider doing pairs again, but right now I like being in control and not having to worry about anyone else. It seems to be a much tougher competition in the ladies' discipline since there are so many ladies. We will see... I got a lot of compliments as a single skater.
But if the time is right and the cards are played well I can go back to pair skating.

What is the most difficult about singles compared to pairs?

I would say the amount of elements, like the jumps for example. Compared to two in pairs there are seven in singles. For me the hardest part was also to be alone on the ice, I kept looking for my partner, like: "where is he"?
Motivating yourself can be a challenge too. When you have someone there, it is better than being alone and fighting with yourself.
But when you find the right balance both disciplines are pretty cool.

Do you skate to the same style of music now, or do you choose differently?

Well, I didn't have a choice this time. My coaches said: "this is what you are going to skate to", but I think next year, especially with lyrics being allowed at Worlds, I will go more by what I feel.
It is more difficult in pars since you have two people to blend into the music compared to what your own style is.

If you could choose, what would be your favorite music to skate to?

Big band jazz like Swing kids, my choreographer says that once we have more time we will get in the studio to work on that, but for now we're sticking to what I know which is pairs music.

How are you progressing as a single skater?

My jumps are coming along really well.
As a pair skater my jumps weren't really consistent. I was always like a leader in pairs but when I jump alone I am great. With someone next to me I was too worried about the timing.
At practice my jumps are pretty good coming back after the six month break. I am working on my triple Lutz, so hopefully by Europeans I will master some harder elements.

Who does your choreography?

Galit Chait.

Aha, so that is how you pronounce it (Daniellle pronouncing Galit as it should be)!

Well, everyone pronounces it differently depending on where they are from, I guess (laughs).

Is your ankle ok now?
How much can you practice?

I practice twice a day six days a week.
I had a lot of catching up to do so I practiced six hours seven days a week when I got back.
It depends on the day and how I feel since I still have the metal in my ankle. I have learned how to work with it and it's my left leg so not the landing leg but the push-off leg. It's a struggle, but I'll have one more screw taken out, hopefully soon, and then I have only five screws left. But those are permanent since I broke my fibula, shattered something else, tore a ligament, and dislocated the actual ankle.
When it happened I didn't think it was that bad, more like a bad sprain or something. But when I saw the x-rays and the doctors said I needed surgery right away I was like: "what"?

Didn't you feel it?

Well, it happened on the ice. I landed a twist, stepped forward and totally did like a three sixty. It really hurt for about a minute, but when I got up I couldn't step on it and it started swelling. I was really hoping it was not that bad since we just came back from Austria where we finished third and got all our points. We had nailed our triple twist and started getting all the elements together, but you know what they say: everything happens for a reason.

Do you watch the pairs now?

I do; to me pairs is the most interesting discipline. I don't like to watch the ladies, I never did before. Well, there are certain ladies I like to watch, but pairs are so exciting to me.
It is really hard for me to watch though because I know I could have been out there.

Who are your favorites among the pairs and the ladies?

Tanya and Max of course (Volosozhar / Trankov, Russia) and the American pair Marissa Castelli / Simon Shnapir. I admire them for their courage, they tried a throw quad Salchow at the US Classic in Salt Lake City in September.
I haven't watched the ladies either since we were in the international US Classic, but I like Samantha Cesario (USA) and I actually really enjoyed Isadora Williams' short program (Isadora is from Brazil). I ran into her during the short practice since we were in the same starting group. I don't really know the ladies so I am like, "where are you from? Who are you? I am sorry I really don't know you." But I know Miki (Ando, Japan) since I trained with her and I admire her for coming back.
And I know every pair that walks by, I know them all.


The men can sometimes be fun to watch, like Michal (Brezina, Czech) whom I, by the way, am now dating. He helps me a lot with motivation and it's great to watch him training for the Olympics since he also trains in Hackensack. They have an Olympic size ice and Johnny Weir (USA) is there and Elena Glebova (Estonia) and Natalia Popova from Ukraine.
But sometimes it's hard since I train at the same rink as my former partner and see him at times, but again it is motivation.

What did you do to get ready so fast?

I was in physio therapy every day. I had a trainer who worked with me; that was great, and I trained three hours every day to get the strength back in my legs.
They are still different sizes. I had atrophy afterwards, I had no muscles.
Recently I do more of biking, stretching etc, and not so much weight training as I did in pairs, since there was more strength training needed there. I am elongating the muscles instead of building them up.
I do ballet and Pilates too.

Our interview is almost over but Danielle has something she really wants to add.

I want to say that I am very happy for the Israeli pair team. I am happy that Israel has a team for the Olympics. She has worked very hard (Evgeni Krasnopolski has teamed up with Andrea Davidovich -ed) in the few months that she has been on board. I do wish them the best!
And for me, the free program here at the Nebelhorn Trophy, was probably the most emotional skate I have ever had in my life but I am happy I did it!

(Danielle and her mother, Michelle Montalbano)

We wish Danielle the best in whatever the future brings her, whether as a single or a pair skater. As she says: "everything happens for a reason".

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