Passion on the ice

By Susanne Kempf
Photos by Susanne Kempf

An interview with the Italian Ice Dancers Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali is certainly never boring - not surprisingly Massimo is a man of many words (my tape even almost ran outÂ… :)). When we met in the Novotel bar in Paris (dare I say: the place of many lobby chicksÂ…) last November, Massimo shared many interesting things about their programs, the Olympics in their home country, the comeback of Fusar-Poli & Margaglio, shopping in China and their goal to become "World Champions of the hearts".

Q: When did you start skating and how did it happen?

Massimo: We both started around 1990, Federica a year earlier. My school arranged a workshop on the ice – for schools in Italy physical education is very important - and at the end of the year there was an exhibition. I could immediately feel it was the right thing for me. I had loved sports before: I swam, run.. but skating is something different, it is not only sports but also art on the ice. The year after I signed up for lessons at my local ice rink in Rome.

Federica and I have known each other for 10 years – I was skating with Flavia Ottaviani and she was skating with Luciano Milo under the same coach and in the same ice rink. In 2000/2001 we moved from Rome to Milan because both of our partners stopped skating – Flavia after Junior Worlds in Oberstdorf and Luciano after Worlds in Nice. But at first I was skating with Jennifer Wester (Daniil Barantsev's fiancée) and Federica with a French guy but it didn't work really well for either of us so we started skating together at last.

Q: What would you describe as your strengths and weaknesses?

Massimo: For this season we really had to work on the technical stuff – not because we are not able to do it but because of our character. We are very passionate on and off the ice. For us it is very hard to be so strict with the rule – to count the lifts, to count the spins… You can easily lose the connection to the music with the steps you are doing - it is quite mathematical, especially for us. (laughs) We just want to present ourselves to the public. When we were still with our former coach Walter Rizzo, we were even more like this.

But now we really need to be precise, we need to concentrate more but we still want to keep the expression and passion on the ice. That's why it's hard. Working with Joan Slater and Roberto Pelizzola, our current coach, has really improved our technical side, we skate much better compulsory dances now than a couple of years ago.

Q: Please tell us a bit about working under two different coaches in the past two years (Federica and Massimo changed coaches right before Worlds in 2004).

This season we really like our program. Last year was good for us too but it was a transition season: We changed the coach, we changed everything so we weren't really comfortable… The style of the two coaches is very different. Walter was very passionate and not so technical – Robert is so much more technical and therefore less passionate. He checks everything with the clock – we weren't used to that. Especially in the CD: For example sometimes we spend two hours on one step only… We also paid much more attention to the position of the body. So last year was very hard for us. Now we are more "free" and have adapted more.

Q: How would you comment on your results in the Grand Prix series?

Here in Paris we skated much better than in China but Federica has had a problem with the ankle so not everyting was perfect. The free dance was good but we were a bit surprised about the OD. We got level 3 for a lift which was ok, probably we were off one second - but as for the straight line and diagonal step sequence, we can't really understand why it was suddenly only level 2. We have checked everything so we were supposed to have level 4 on both. In China we got at least level 3. What I want to say, it's very hard to know what's right. It were three difficult weeks for us: First the disaster which was our free dance in China and then the ankle problem which made it very hard for Federica, she had to skate in painÂ…

Q: How did you pick the music this year?

Massimo: For the OD, we had an old CD with the Latin music of our free dance 3 years ago, so that was the cha-cha. We feel at ease with all three Latin rhythms so we thought it is good to use all of them. For the other two rhythms, we chose the Samba because we like it. It is good for the final part because it is happy and upbeat. The rhumba is a bit different from the usual rhumba rhythms – we wanted to do something special.

As for the Free Dance: At the beginning we wanted to do something Italian because of the Olympic Games, obviously (laughs), but then we didn't want to do something normal like "Romeo and Juliet". We found this music that is from an Italian composer, Enrico Morricone. The first time we heard the music, we said "This is it". We didn't want to portray the story of the movie (it talks about Indians) but of life: Federica is the soul and I am the physical/material. Thus Federica was supposed to look like "undressed", stripped of all earthly matters. That was the idea we wanted to convey. At the beginning my costume was much more flesh-coloured fabric to make clear that I am "the body"... but in the end we realized it was just not possibleÂ…

Q: would be almost nakedÂ…! ;)

Massimo: Right... more costume deduction! (laughs) (Federica and Massimo had a deduction for her costume at TEB in Paris) Federica is with her hair in a bun and I am the typical story man with the long hair.

Q: How do feel about the Olympics being held in your country? Is it more of a pressure for you or rather encouraging...?

Massimo: Maybe we still don't really feel the pressure but of course we are very happy. In the life of a sportman it doesn't happen so easily that the Olympic Games are in your home countryÂ…

Q: I remember the audience at Euros in TorinoÂ… when there were Italian skaters on the ice, it was so loud that my ears almost hurt! :)

Massimo: YesÂ… it was incredible for us because in Italy figure skating is not so famous and we were very surpised about the reception of the audience. So the Olympic Games will be the same I guessÂ…! And we will have even more TV there.

Q: What does it mean for you that Fusar-Poli and Margaglio are coming back this season? What does it mean to you and does it take away something from you...?

Massimo: Of course at the beginning we were not so happy. We learned about it one week before we left for the World Championships - bad timing! :) - but on the other hand that's kind of normal for us. (laughs) I mean, in Dortmund 2004 we decided to go there without a coach so two years in a row there was happening a lot psychologically right before WorldsÂ… Anyway, at first we didn't care, we wanted to fight. We don't want them to arrive and simply take our Number One spot... (smiles) We have grown up in the past years too and we know the system very well, better than them. So we will just do what we can and show our best.

Q: You have the same coach, how is that like?

Massimo: Yes but we are not in the same club. They still skate in the old club and we are in a new one so we are in different rinks. We just skate together twice a week, two hours in the morning because their ice rink is Olympic-sized, ours is a bit smaller. So we don't really skate with them, we don't divide our coach.

Q: So you generally you get along well with them?

Massimo: Yes, of course! I mean, I can understand them, the Olympics are at home and they have won a lot, they are good skaters.. so we can't really say they take our place... it's a free world after all and naturally they can do what they wantÂ… (laughs)

Q: But it was a surprising decisionÂ… they were Champions and basically you are more likely to loose than to win something with a comeback after a rather long time - even if it is just your "reputation"Â….

Massimo: Yes, true. I mean, we saw it with us how difficult it was before the new season - and we have never retired! (laughs) Before the season, we made sure that everything is level 4, we checked everything - and then we found out that so many mistakes and that so much was only level 2… just like it happened for other couples as well I guess – and probably for them too. Sometimes it's hard to figure out the system!

Q: Have you already thought about how long you want to skate? Do you have a time line like "Okay, another 4 years"?

Massimo: The idea is that we do another Olympic circle until 2010 but of course you can never say anything for sure... Life is unpredictable. We want to skate until 2010, then retireÂ… and come back in 2014! (laughs) No, just kidding! :)

Q: Do your parents and family sometimes attend your competitions?

Massimo: Well, they can't follow us so much because of their work at home and they live in Rome but of course they care a lot about our career and they were at Euros in Turino. It's now 5 years that we left from home. For other countries it is normal to leave home when you are in your twenties, possibly move to another cityÂ… but in Italy it's different. We are always very close to the family and it's not easy for us to leave home. Now we live in Milan but whenever we come back from Rome, we feel that Milan is not our home.

Q: Do you like Milan then? It's the capital of fashion after allÂ… :)

Massimo: Shopping in Milan is so expensive! We like to shop in China. (laughs) That was the best!! Milano is not bad – but when we are back in Rome we feel the difference. Milan is a place where we work so we never really go out during the week because we have to get up early in the morning… For me, I don't want to stay in Milan after my career.

Q: Do you have any idea what you would like to do after your career? Do you want to stay involved in skating - as a coach, choreographer – or do something totally different?

Massimo: I think everything will depend on how our career will go. If we will be really good, "all doors will be open for us", as we say in Italian. Now my idea is to quit the skating work for good.

Federica (yay! :)): I want to be "normal" and have a family and kidsÂ…

Q: But you can have both – see Navka! :)

Massimo: No, it's not the sameÂ…

Q: Can you imagine being World Champions one day?

Massimo: Oh yes, of course! (laughs) We can wait and then see what happensÂ…

Q: What do you think of the state and general level of ice dance these days?

Massimo: What I don't like is that I never feel something anymore when I watch ice-dance. That's why we want to remain passionate so much, even at the cost of possible mistakes. For us it means to learn to be technical but at the same time to give emotions. As said, it is not just sport but also art and I feel the need to convey something. People should understand what we want to say and put out on the ice. Maybe we will never be World Champions but maybe people will remember us for the rest of the life and we will be "World Champion of the Hearts" at least. (laughs)

Absolute Skating: Thank you very much for the interview and good luck for the season!!

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