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Berton, Hotarek inspire Italians, prep for worlds

Milan team embraces likes being pairs ambassador, answers questions

Italians Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek have become ambassadors for the pairs discipline.
Italians Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek have become ambassadors for the pairs discipline. (Getty Images)

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By Vladislav Luchianov, special to icenetwork.com
(02/06/2012) - Italy's pairs skating team of Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek made their country proud this season by winning the bronze at the 2011 Rostelecom Cup, which was the first pairs Grand Prix medal in Italian figure skating history. They also grabbed the silver medal at the 2011 Ondrej Nepela Memorial and finished fourth at NHK Trophy.

At the 2012 European Figure Skating Championships, Berton and Hotarek finished fourth, skating technically solid and artistically elegant performances. It was a good result for the Italian team, considering that Ondrej Hotarek skated in Sheffield with an injury.

Icenetwork.com spoke with the Italian pairs team about their skating past, thoughts on the European championships and plans for the World Championships.

Icenetwork.com: Stefania, Ondrej could you please tell us about the creation of your pair? How did you start skating together?

Stefania Berton: I never thought about pairs skating, but when Ondrej called me after Europeans in 2009, I said to myself: "Why not? Let's give it a try!" I always had a special trust in Ondrej and I knew that if I wouldn't do pairs with him I wouldn't do [figure skating] at all.

Ondrej Hotarek: Well, it was pretty simple. I asked Stefy if she would like to try skating pairs and she said yes. We did a little tryout and everything worked great. It's been great adventure ever since.

Icenetwork.com: You both were single skaters. Why did you decide to continue your careers in another discipline?

S. Berton: I felt my single career was at the end.

O. Hotarek: I wasn't such a great single skater, especially compared to Czech single skating level in men's category. But I love figure skating and I wanted to compete on [a] high level, so I tried to find my path in pairs skating. Seems to fit me much better skating in a pairs team.

Icenetwork.com: In Sheffield you finished fourth, the best for your team at the European championships. What can you tell us about it?

S. Berton: The result in itself, it's not something we can decide. Anyway we are really happy to start the pairs movement in Italy and we are working to keep [getting] better and better.

O. Hotarek: For me, it has been the hardest championships ever. We both had [a] few health issues, which shortened our preparation for only about a week. But we don't like to surrender and we felt like we wanted to give it a try. So we are happy with fourth place, which means our personal improvement and even Italian pairs historical improvement.

Icenetwork.com: How would you evaluate your performances in Sheffield?

S. Berton: We started the competition knowing we weren't at our best shape, but we decided to fight till the very end and we are really proud of how we faced our problems with the great help of our team.

O. Hotarek: The short program was very strong in the first half; everything was going well. Then I got distracted and a little tired in step sequence. Toe pick, fall, loosing a step sequence. Sometimes bad things happen. [The most important thing] is to find the way to skate free skating like nothing happened. And I must thank my partner for all her support and trust which help me [go] through this whole competition and especially free skating.

Icenetwork.com: And what can you say about your rivals?

S. Berton: I'm sorry for what happened with Aliona [Savchenko] and Robin [Szolkowy]. I think that the competition had a high level and I congratulate the Russian teams.

O. Hotarek: Top three pairs are very strong and solid. Great history of pairs was made by Russian pairs skaters. We still have much to learn, but [sometime] we hope to be able to skate as good as them, maybe even better.

Icenetwork.com: Will you change something in your programs for the World Championships?

S. Berton: The most important thing we are going to change is our twist that will be triple. Then we'll think about improving our interpretation and [gliding] on the ice.

O. Hotarek: At first, we are going to leave our problems behind, and we want make the best out of our preparation. No big changes for the programs.

Icenetwork.com: Tell us, please, about your training plans for the World Championships?

S. Berton/O. Hotarek: We'll start from recovering from our illnesses. Then we'll go to practice in Detroit for some weeks to work with Pasquale Camerlengo, Anjelika Krylova and Jason, but then we'll go back home to finish our preparation.

Icenetwork.com: Is there anything in your trainings that you concentrated the most on?

S. Berton: We really want to put ourselves on the ice while we are skating, so we work to put our personalities in our programs.

O. Hotarek: We will concentrate on our triple twist; we need to make this element solid for both short program and free skating.

Icenetwork.com: Are there any new images which you would like to create on the ice?

S. Berton/O. Hotarek: Since we started skating together, we wanted to bring some more interpretation into our routines, make our skating different and interesting for the spectators and the judges. It's a long term goal, and we want to improve this for World Championships as much as we can.

Icenetwork.com: In your vision, what are the prospects of pairs skating in Italy?

S. Berton: We have some young couples that are growing up and we count on them. We hope this beautiful kind of figure skating will keep on growing with us and after us.

O. Hotarek: Pairs skating was just discovered by the skating community in Italy. Coaches don't have experience with pairs skating yet. But more and more people [are] starting to try getting together new pairs teams.

I personally hope we are starting a new era of pairs for Italy. There are already [a] few young good-looking teams, and I wish all the best to all of them. We try to give the best example and show to everyone that it's possible to make [a] very good and competitive pair from Italy.