Hurtado, Diaz push ice dance forward in IberiaSpanish duo considers simplicity 'boring,' will continue to take risks
Next season, the Grand Prix Final will be held in the beautiful Spanish city of Barcelona. The residents of this city, however, would probably be offended by the term "Spanish;" for them, Barcelona is primarily the capital of Catalonia, an autonomous community of Spain.
The choice of this location as the host of such a major figure skating event does not appear to be a casual one. In recent years, Spain has loudly declared itself to the skating world, particularly with the successes of its leader, Javier Fernández. The ice dance discipline has progressed as well thanks to risk takers Sara Hurtado and Adrià Díaz, who this past season became Spain's first ice dancers to qualify an Olympic spot.
The 2013-14 season was the most successful so far for Hurtado and Diaz. They finished second at the Cup of Nice, fifth at the Golden Spin in Zagreb, eighth at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, 10th at the European championships in Budapest and and 13th in their Olympic debut.
Icenetwork talked with the Spanish ice dancing pioneers about their Olympic impressions, the importance of originality and their work with their Canadian coaches.
Icenetwork: Sara, Adrià, you are the first Spanish ice dance team to take part in the Winter Olympics. Could you share with us your thoughts and impressions on your Olympic debut in Sochi?
Hurtado and Diaz: Being able to compete at the Olympics, it's already the best achievement for every athlete. We only realized after that we were the first ones to do it [in ice dance] for our country. We were so focused on the work we had to do to get there that we didn't think about what it really meant. It's an honor and a privilege to open a new discipline for your country. We hope that with this we inspire people to take risks and trust their passion to do something. Others may think it is a crazy idea.
Icenetwork: In Sochi, you finished 13th, which, in my opinion, is a very good result for debutantes. You also reached the top 10 at the 2014 European Championships. How important were these results for you personally and for your country?
Hurtado and Diaz: Personally, we go beyond the numbers. We like to keep the feeling that we had on the ice. We felt really good in both competitions, and we like to keep that -- that feeling of knowing you did your best and that you enjoyed every single step of it. That is something that can't be marked with numbers.
It's very important for our country that now we can send two teams to the Europeans. It's a way of letting everybody know that Spain has ice dance and is growing strong. Also, our debut at the Olympics is the best result for a Spanish skater at his or her first Olympics, so we are very happy and proud of our achievement. It's always hard to perform your best at the Olympics because of all the excitement, the pressure and all those special things. But we were able to do it, and that's our best reward.
Icenetwork: How did the Spanish media and sports community react to your recent successes? Did you manage to distract from football (soccer) at least for some time?
Hurtado and Diaz: Not really, that's a very hard task. ... In our country, football is like a religion, but little by little they are starting to pay attention to other sports. The thing is that you have to be really good to get the attention. Javi [Fernández] is doing a very good job at it, and thanks to him, figure skating is starting to be more famous. Hopefully, soon we will [also] give [such] good results, and we will fight alongside Javi to get the media attention away from football.
Icenetwork: Do you think your ice dance team inspired young people in Spain to choose figure skating instead of football or tennis, which are so popular in your country?
Hurtado and Diaz: We would love to think so. One of the reasons we do this is because we want other people to feel as good as we do figure skating and dancing on the ice. We believe ice dance is so much more than a sport, and it has the artistry aspect that football and tennis don't have.
Kids love the feeling you get when you skate and move fast on a surface like ice. Adults like the challenge of doing tricks and turns with your blades. ... Figure skating has a lot to give to every single person; it doesn't matter how young or old you are. It's a sport to discover, and in our country it still has a long way to go for it to become important. The main difficulty is the amount of ice rinks. There aren't many, so not a lot of people can practice this sport.
Icenetwork: Your performances contain a lot of unique harmony and "Spanish passion." Will you continue to keep your originality, taking into account all the difficult technical rules in ice dancing?
Hurtado and Diaz: Yes, of course. We are always trying to look for ways of reinventing the rules. We like to be original and take risks, bring something new to the sport like other teams in the past did (Isabelle Duchesnay and Paul Duchesnay, for example). We find that the challenge is always exciting. That harmony, in combination with our Spanish passion, is what we are, and it's what we like to project on the ice. It's truly our essence and our personalities.
Although the work we have to do is very hard. We don't have time to be faking who we are or the way we skate. We like to be natural and clear. The people who watch us will always appreciate that.
Icenetwork: It seems you, like your compatriot Javier Fernández, never make your programs simple just for the sake of receiving higher points. Is that right?
Hurtado and Diaz: For us, simple is boring. We look for things to make other people feel something. You don't really get excited with the same lifts as three years ago or the same kind of choreography. First, we want to do something we won't be bored with by the middle of the season and second, we want to leave our mark, our personality on the ice. We are curious and creative people, and we find joy in playing with steps, turns, lifts, spins, moves, music. ... It's part of the fun of figure skating.
Icenetwork: As far as I know, you have a very serious approach to the selection of music for your programs. Tell us about the musical aspect of your team.
Hurtado and Diaz: Yes, music is very important for us. It is a pillar of the program that will bring to life the story, the feelings and the choreography of the piece. We have to love it and feel something inside when we skate in order to be able to project it to the crowd. It has to make sense for us. It's hard to practice every day and work with some music you don't like. You feel lost, and you end up not liking the program. However, if you like the music, the program falls into place without forcing it and makes the rest of the work much easier.
Icenetwork: And what you could tell us about your work with famous Canadian coaches Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon?
Hurtado and Diaz: Honestly, they have saved our career. They took us in one of our worst moments and helped us to get back up stronger -- we owe them. Now they know how we work and how to make us work. They understand us as a team, and that's very important.
Our success is not only due to ourselves. There's a big army of people working with us to make those unforgettable moments on the ice, not only Marie and Patrice but also the rest of our coaches, our federation, the Spanish government and the people that help economically, like the Fundación Madrid Olímpico (Madrid Olympic Foundation), OHL (Obrascón Huarte Lain, a Madrid-based construction company that sponsors the Spanish Ice Sports Federation) and our families. There's much more than what you see on the ice.
Icenetwork: In your opinion, which way will ice dancing develop in the near future, in the next Olympic cycle?
Hurtado and Diaz: Ice dance is getting stronger every single season. The tricks and choreography of teams are becoming more interesting and exciting to watch all the time. We can't know which way it will develop -- four years is a long period of time to make big changes -- but for sure it will be exciting to be part of it.