Valentina Marchei: "When I’m in Italy, my heart is warmed."

October 19, 2013
By Oxana Shkrebtienko
Photos © LMDJ, Anna Bertoloni, MG

An Italian spirit living in America, Valentina Marchei starts a new season.  She prepares herself for the first Olympic Games of her long sports career. Is it difficult to stay Italian while living so far from Italy? How long can she keep living this way? She tells us about her new programs, new coach and new skating mood.

Please, tell us about your programs for the new season. We can see part of your “Flamenco” from the Gala and it looks so beautiful! Who created this program for you?

Ok, Flamenco is my new free program, and it has already taken a special place in my heart. It is choreographed by Yuka Sato, my coach and by Roberto Campanella, he is a professional dancer from Toronto. He is also a choreographer and a teacher; he has a school in Toronto. In 2001 he worked with Kurt Browning on his “Flamenco”.  So it is not something new for him, but it is a female version of the dance, and it is a program for competition, not for an exhibition. Also the level is different, because Kurt is Kurt and Valentina is Valentina, an actively competing skater. It was very, very difficult for him. Professionally it was an open-mind thinking experience, because he made me discover Valentina as a very feminine, very elegant woman. And it was great!

Last season my short program was also flamenco, but very different from the one this year. At the last competition Yuka said me, “We must keep this direction, and we should find something close to that, like the style for the next year.” So, we went in this direction. It took quite a long time to find the right music, but we finally found it. We didn’t want a classical version of Nyah, we took this one by CH2. I’m very happy with it. My coach always finds the right things, 100% matches me. And then, when she creates the program, I just feel – oh, yes, that’s it! I really trust her; she has the right ideas of a new Vale.


Are you happy with Yuka as a coach?

Yes, I’m so happy with Yuka! I’d say I found my direction and the right team for me in Detroit. I had a lot of experience before with other coaches in Italy, with Nikolai Morozov for a short time, but now this is the thing I was looking for! They take care of me, they know how to bring me into good shape and I think, they finally found the skater I want to be with them.

And what about the short program?
About my short program - I wanted to do something for my country, something I was ready to do. I took the very famous Italian song, “Torna a Surento”. The choreographer is Massimo Scali, he found this song. It was hard to do, we asked a composer to arrange the music. It is a very romantic song, the program is very softly done and it is a step up for me. I really want to do it well, because of competing at the Olympics with the program in the Italian style - I represent my country. It was Massimo’s idea about the Italian song. We are close friends with him; we really work very well together, because we create together. We started to discuss the idea, it took us a week. Then we made the choreography in three days. On the fourth it was ready. We work very well together going with a fantasy, and it’s amazing! It is great to have a choreographer the same as you! And a good thing is that Yuka knows this market, she is always nearby to look at the program and to modify it in a right way.

So, you found a good base for yourself in Detroit, right?

Yes, it is very good for skating, I have everything there. There are 3 rinks, I have my choreographers there, my physiotherapist, we are like a family. The whole team is international and I have everything there around taking care of me. So, I can’t complain of course! I’m very happy here, I enjoy my life now. I just miss my family, I miss Italy, but it is a small thing, I can manage it. This year I need to be very concentrated on the training, I have everything for skating and it is the main thing. It’s important to have this mood, to have this spirit, if you lose it, you never catch it again. I’m happy I have this spirit, and I think I probably can continue after Sochi.

Oh, this was my next question, what are you going to do after Sochi?

Ok, right now I want to take it month by month. It is very exciting here and I improved a lot, it really worked well this summer.My question is:  what should I do after Worlds? It is very sad… I feel as I’m young now, so the questions in my head are like – how far can I still go? I think I will keep going as far as I’m able. You know, you will feel it, the moment when you can’t do it anymore. So, this works for me too. For me and for the future of Italian figure skating it is better to stay. I’d say – we’ll see what happened. I’ll take a decision after Sochi. 

Tell us, please, about your costumes. They are so nice, so elegant! Who helps you with design, with the ideas?

In 2006 in Turin I did not go because of Silvia Fontana’s comeback. I thought it would be my first Olympic Games. But she was better than me, more experienced. She was ahead of me at the Nationals, Europeans, so she went. She was always together with us. It was very hard for me to attend them, to watch them, in Turin… But this was my strength, like nothing to do with the team. The funny thing is that now Silvia Fontana is one of my sponsors. She makes my dresses, her company. This line represents me, my skating so well. We are good friends with Silvia and we understand each other perfectly. There is a stylist in this company, her name is Carmina. Her ideas are crazy! When I look at her drawing, I always think – it won’t work, it is too crazy! But then, when she creates the suit, it is just amazing. Like last year with my flamenco dress. When I saw it, I said, “No, it’s too wild, I would like something elegant!” And she said, “Trust me, trust me!” And in the end everybody was talking about this program, about this dress as they liked it! I never chose anything, it’s always her creation. I send her the music and she creates. Of course, there is some lack of Yuka in the dresses, because Yuka always has good ideas. But she doesn’t want to block the mind of Carmina. So, she allows Carmina to create. She prefers to be involved in things she knows better. Yuka only has the final view of the ready dress, that’s all. Even for me it’s the same! Usually it works perfectly with Carmina. For example, a funny thing happened last year. It was a base of a dress, nothing on it, I tried and it was perfect. She showed me the picture, I said, “That’s cool, let’s do it, I want this and this and this on it”. Then from her studio we went directly to the airport because I had to fly to Detroit. Then from the security check line I got a call from her that she’d changed everything. Let’s do this and this and this! Even another color. Two weeks later I received the dress and it fit perfectly! I even didn’t try it! Like it is something made for you, like a second skin. So, I trust Carmina 100% and it works. Yuka makes only the last additions.

Tell us, please, about your plans for galas. You are an energy ball, any gala would be happy to get you! Do you receive interesting offers?

This year I’m still competing, I don’t plan many galas. It is more important to train well. We decided to do the Summer Tour, to try just one program, to run it out in front of the public. Yuka wants me to get used to the light, to stress, to the public. That’s all for summer. This year I’ll have more for the Christmas time. It’s nice after the competitions to switch it off, but to keep practicing in a different way.
If I gonna stop, I hope to have my second career as a performer, because I love to skate and I love the public! At some rinks it is better, in some others not, but the public in Italy is so warm, so welcome! When the performance is done, they just breathe out all together, and this feeling is amazing! Living away you don’t realize who you are until you get this moment. It’s nice to have so much support in Italy. Little kids take you as a sports model, as example. Medals are important, but it is more important for me to be a good example. Because sport is, in the end, an experience of life, like a big challenge. It prepares you for life. When I’m here, I see this reaction of the public, I feel their love, and my heart is warmed. It is so beautiful! And I feel always like that in Italy!

So, you have a big motivation to continue, to represent your country?

Or, yes! When finally I found myself in Detroit, I started to feel as if I came back to being 16 years old again, the same passion as I felt when younger. When I wake up in the morning I say “I don’t want to skate, I’m tired.” But itis so beautiful the experience there, such a nice atmosphere, all my friendsare there. It’s beautiful, every day it’s beautiful! It’s less hard, even if I become tired.

What are your interests, your activities besides figure skating?

I study at the University and I should graduate after Sochi. My profession is sport, how to get ready, how to prepare the athlete, like a coach, like a physiologist, even like a journalist. I’m working my way. I report for TV in Italy. I really have in my mind to keep going with this.

Valentina Marchei competes at Skate America, the first Grand Prix event of this season, this weekend. Today, October 19 she skates her short program and tomorrow, Oct 20 she will show her free program.  Good luck ! Forza, Vale!


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