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Two disciplines, one skater: Marchei's bold move

Five-time Italian champion not ready to give up singles career just yet
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Valentina Marchei will compete as both a singles and pairs skater this season. -Getty Images

Those of us who have two or more jobs can tell you: Fighting a war on two fronts, in a manner of speaking, is very challenging. However, when your work is also your greatest passion, and inspiration is what leads you, and all your efforts go toward building new strength and expanding your energy.

The above fully applies to five-time Italian champion Valentina Marchei, who is beginning a new skating journey. The 28-year-old surprised the world of figure skating last month, when it was announced that Marchei would take up pairs skating. Many were even more amazed when they found out that her new partner is Ondřej Hotárek, the 2013 European bronze medalist and three-time Italian pairs champion with former partner Stefania Berton.

Marchei and Hotárek are already training together and making good progress as a team. However, Marchei is not ready to quit her singles career, so she will compete in both disciplines this season.

Icenetwork spoke to Marchei about her new adventure and the possible challenges she may face taking on this new role.

Icenetwork: Last month, Canadian coach Bruno Marcotte confirmed in an interview with icenetwork that you're skating pairs with Ondřej Hotárek. Could you tell us more about it?

Marchei: It's not a tryout anymore. We are motivated to make things work, and so far we are having fun and have set goals for a four-year plan. It's been just seven weeks that we are skating together. I started from zero, playing around at our club camp. I never thought it would become real, because of my 20 years of experience in singles skating, but it happened so fast that I can't say that I don't like it.

Icenetwork: As I understand, you also plan to continue your competitive career as a singles skater. Are you worried about the heavy workload that will come with taking on both disciplines?

Marchei: Yes, I plan to continue, as of now, my singles career. With Ondřej, we started to play around in mid-June. Before that, I even went to London to work with Robin Cousins on my singles skills and worked hard to raise the bar of my limits. I really love my discipline. It has been a long journey for me, and the Olympic experience was incredible. It is hard to let go of the part of your life that has been there all your life. Yes, it is going to be a lot of skating, but as long as I can manage it, I'll do my best to do both.

Icenetwork: Often times during competitions, different disciplines compete back to back. How do you plan to deal with that issue if your two disciplines go one right after the other?

Marchei: It's a very new situation. I know it is a lot of work. I have been experiencing that the past few weeks. It's all about putting in the right energies at the right moment. I've been doing a particular cardio workout to have a good base of endurance, and then it's all about compromising with yourself.

I can't keep the same amount of hours doing singles skating as last year because I wouldn't be able to work with Ondřej. Also, since I started pairs, I became a stronger athlete, and it's only helping my singles skating more.

Icenetwork: Have you ever tried pairs skating before teaming up with Hotárek, for fun or otherwise?

Marchei: Yes, just for fun with Brian Joubert, but only side-by-side jumps. We never tried pair elements.

Icenetwork: And how will you decide on training locations? Your singles skating coaches live in Detroit, whereas your pairs coaches are in Montreal and Milan.

Marchei: The moment I decided to follow this path of pairs skating, I had to make a decision. Ondřej will get married next year to Anna (Cappellini), and he wishes to stay in Italy as his training base. If I wanted to make things work with him on the ice, I had to accept that, so I left Detroit to move back home where I can also train in singles skating with Franca Bianconi (who has been part of her team the past three years).

I mean, who would not be happy to move back home after six years living around the world? It has not been an easy choice, but the motivation and the passion I have right now as a skater to follow my dreams is stronger than the fear of changing my life again. Detroit has been a life-changing experience; Jason (Dungjen) and Yuka (Sato) have been the best guides I could ask for. I learned a lot about skating and about myself with them. I'll always be thankful to my working team and my teammates for the support over these three years of crazy experiences together.

Icenetwork: Bruno Marcotte also said that you are doing very well in pairs, already successfully trying a throw triple Salchow. Tell us about your progress.

Marchei: As you mentioned before, we will be training between Montreal and Milan. We went to Bruno and Richard (Gauthier) after only three weeks of skating together. The goal was to learn the new elements, but also to be sure this project wasn't a foolish idea -- that it could bring results with time. It has been a wonderful two weeks with them and the team of athletes.

We accomplished a lot in such a short time, always with a smile and the pleasure of enjoying the little goals day by day. We landed our first triple throw Salchow with them. We worked on lifts and a double twist, death spirals, and all you can think of doing pairs.

It's crazy how my partner was so patient, repeating and repeating and repeating. It must be hard for him to start from zero, too, after all he accomplished with Stefania. But the experience of both of us is helping a lot, and our passion for this sport is pushing us to break limits. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were a great help, and so were the other skaters. We are looking forward to working with all of them in the next month. The positive energy in that rink is contagious. We are honored Bruno and Richard agreed to work with us, and we are happy to have them in our team along with Franca Bianconi.

Icenetwork: What goals would you like to achieve in pairs skating?

Marchei: Our goals, as of now, are to compete at nationals and make the European and world team. To do that we will have to make the [minimum technical] score in an international competition probably around November, if we are ready. Otherwise, it will be after nationals. It's a four-year project we are looking for; otherwise, we would not put ourselves into this new adventure. We know it will take time to make things work well, but we are very patient people.

Icenetwork: How are you adjusting to the collective responsibility that comes with pairs skating?

Marchei: I thought, too, that the biggest gap in switching to pairs would be having to deal with another person on the ice. I'm very hard on myself sometimes. Over the years, the best lesson I had from Jason and Yuka was to learn to compromise with myself. And that's exactly what Jason told me when I told him I was trying pairs. It's a challenge every day, but Ondřej and I have the same approach on and off the ice. It is very hard, for now, to disagree on something. We both are hard workers, dreamers and good friends.

Icenetwork: Can you tell us about your programs for the new skating year?

Marchei: As a singles skater, I will keep my programs from last season, but with an updated version of my short program: "Torna a Surriento" will be with lyrics. The long is my jewel; I loved that long from the first minute we started to work on it last summer. "Nyah" has become a part of me, and I wasn't ready to let it go. 

In pairs skating, Ondřej and I chose "Malagueña" for our short program this season. Franca Bianconi, our head coach, was thrilled with the choice and the choreography by Massimo Scali. It wasn't easy to look to someone else on the ice, after being used to flirting with the cameras, but with time I pretty much got used to it, and Ondřej is making things very easy and comfortable for me.

Icenetwork: What are your main competitive plans for the upcoming season?

Marchei: I know it's going to be hard to do both disciplines. At some point, I will have to make a decision, and I'm taking my time to make the best decision. As of now, I plan to compete at the Grand Prix events I have: Skate Canada and Cup of Russia (Rostelecom Cup). But who knows what the future will bring.

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