The timing is right for  Danielle Montalbano and Konrad Hocker-Scholler

October 22, 2014
By EMJO (Eva Maria Jangbro)
Photos © EMJO (Eva Maria Jangbro), Danielle Montalbano

Danielle Montalbano went from singles to pair skating. Unfortunately things did not work out with her partner, and when we talked a year ago she competed as a single lady again.

But where does that leave her today? I was happy to catch up with her at the Nebelhorn Trophy to find out she recently teamed up with a new partner, German Konrad Hocker-Scholler. How did this happen? Danielle and Konrad share their story.

Danielle: After the 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy, I had the last surgery on my ankle (which she shattered in a fall back in 2012). The hardware was removed because it was hurting me. I then made it to the European Championships in Budapest. I didn't skate great, but I made it and I had to make a decision if I wanted to continue for another next season. I did find a partner at the Ellenton Ice and Sports complex in Florida, where I worked with Jim Peterson and Lyndon Johnston. They were awesome! The Ellenton complex has great facilities, great people, great weather and all, but the partnership didn't work out because of our different personalities. And I had an accident there within the first week; I broke my patella and was in a cast for a month. During that month I went to Oberstdorf to visit Michal (Brezina, her boyfriend). Konrad was there and he mentioned he was looking for a partner. We tried some stuff off the ice because of my leg, and a month later I moved there. We seemed to click right away, it works very well with our personalities and he is very patient and calm, something I am not. And Michal is there too, so that is great. But my parents were not happy since I turned out moving very far away from them (they live in New York).

Are you going to skate for Germany or Israel?

We are not sure yet. We are in the process of deciding and talking to both federations. I skated for Israel for a very long time and they are like family to me, so I would love to continue for Israel. But my partner is in the German army and he receives funding from them. He needs that since skating is expensive.

Konrad: Skating for Israel would mean I would have to leave the army and lose that money. It's a special part of the army that supports athletes. I pay for my skating with my earnings from the army.

Who did you skate with before?

Konrad: I skated with Julia Linchk. We did one Junior Grand prix in Tallinn 2013, and Junior Worlds 2014. After that season we had a talk. Since I am 21, I was not able to skate as a junior anymore. We decided I should go for seniors, but she is only 14 years old and could easily skate for 5 years with another partner as juniors. We are still really close friends and there are no hard feelings between us. It was just logical that we both look for other partners. We had a good time together with the highlight being Junior Worlds in Sofia, and I enjoyed the time with her. Now I am happy with my new partner.

Danielle: It is really nice that we teamed up, and that there are no bad feelings with his former partner. I even talked to Julia and it is all good. Good atmosphere!

Who is your coach now?

Konrad: Alexander König, he has been my coach for 5 years, ever since I moved from Stuttgart to Oberstdorf. Before that I was only doing single skating; I started in pairs here. Alex was my coach from the beginning so I told Danielle I'd like to keep working with him and his wife, and Danielle agreed.

You already have a program, after skating how long together?

Danielle: Just a few weeks. But we knew our goal was to do one of the Nationals, and that meant we had to start right away. In order to show results to the federations we need to present something; a program with some elements. We work as a team when it comes to choreography and choosing music. For the short program we put together a mix by Parov Stelar and Disclosure, You and me. It is a little different. For the long we are skating to Cirque du Soleil. The German Nationals will probably be held in Stuttgart this year, and we will want to present ourselves there. We are taking it slow though. Yesterday I heard someone say: "Rush slowly so you don't get hurt", which is very true if I am to overcome me knee injury. My ankle is ok now after all the metal pieces were taken out. I needed a month off, but it taught me a life lesson: health is the most important thing!

Konrad, how about you, are you injury free?

Yes! (smiles)

Why do you think you two are a good match? And what is the most important thing in a partnership; skating skills or style, or is it the mentality?

Danielle: I think mentality. We both have the same goals in mind, and I'd say by just being able to speak with him, the way his thought progress matches mine... I think everything is possible on the ice if you are patient. If you are on the same page, you are able to accomplish a lot more.

Konrad: Mentality, yes. We are both experienced in pairs, so things worked out quickly for us, which gave us big motivation.

What is the most challenging part of being a new pair?

Danielle: The timing!

Konrad: Timing, yes. For twists, for example, since I am taller than her last partner, the angles are different and I have to bend lower. And there are so many different kinds of throws, some like the long grip and some like it really close. But our lifts are already quite good.

Danielle: I prefer a little bit of each, one throw is on the hip and the other one is with the arms, but I am open for trying it. It has been some time now since I did pairs, but I am enjoying it. I really do like to be with someone else on the ice.

How long will it take for you to find out what country you will skate for?

Konrad: We will talk with the federations again this week, so we should know soon.

Danielle: I am 25 and this is my last Olympic cycle, and I want to have a good shot at it. The Israeli federation will support me in whatever I do and look to my best interest. It is hard for me since I first represented the US and then Israel. But I am sure everyone wants what is best for us as a team, so whether it will be Germany or Israel; we have to do the hard work and then the results will show.

Is there anything else you want to add?

Konrad: Oberstdorf is the best place in Europe, perhaps in the world, for skaters to train! For example, there are only pairs on the ice during practice. This is the only place in Germany where only pairs skate together. In other places, like Berlin or Dortmund, you share the ice with ice dancers or singles. We have 3 sessions per day with a maximum of 4 couples on the ice per hour, so there are no accidents. Some rinks might have 6 or even 8 couples practicing together, so you have to watch out all the time. But for us here, it is like a competition practice with 4 pairs on the ice. You shouldn't have to use all your energy watching out for others while practicing, but instead be able to focus on yourself, as we can here.

Update: Danielle and Konrad will skate for Germany.
We wish them good luck with this new partnership and hope to see them again soon!

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