Stefania Berton and Rockne Brubaker: “We don’t want to close the door on any opportunities that might come our way”

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After the Olympics, the figure skating world changed almost entirely, with so many couples in ice dancing and pairs’ disciplines deciding to part ways; and Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek’ splitting was one of those decisions that seemed totally uncomprehensible, given their wonderful journey and results over the last three seasons. A few months have passed since the break up – and then this came up: Stefania was invited to skate in Bucharest, alongside her fiancée, Rockne Brubaker, in “Kings on Ice Olympic Gala”, on October 7th. The figure skating fans waited impatiently for this particular debut – and we took the opportunity of talking to Stefania and Rockne a few hours prior to the show. They both looked happy and relaxed, thoroughly enjoying their time in Bucharest – and, during those couple of hours spent on the ice during rehearsals and gala, their chemistry was obvious. I for one was totally conquered: I’d love to see them skating together in competitions for years to come. At the moment, they’re still considering their options, taking it one day at a time, but Stefania says it loud and clear: “We want to be a part of the skating world for a long time to come”.

by Florentina Tone

Stefania, you’re for the second time in Bucharest, this time with a different partner…
Stefania: That’s for sure! (She smiles; Rockne is standing beside her, smiling too)

You splitting up with Ondrej, this decision to go separate ways took the skating world by surprise… Tell me about it.
Stefania: It was not a common decision, so… I don’t think there is much to say about it. We weren’t agreeing about splitting…

But were you aware of his plans, of his intentions?
Stefania: Well, at the end of the season, he communicated with me, saying he didn’t want to skate anymore… Then we never talked again.

What are your plans now? You’re skating here, in Bucharest, with your fiancée, Rockne Brubaker… but how is it? Is it only for the galas? Is is for competitions too?
Stefania: Well… (She looks at Rockne, with a smile)
Rockne: At the moment, we’re doing the show. We haven’t really thought much past that. I mean, of course we’d love to maybe do more shows here and there…

This is your first performance together, right?
Rockne: Yes.

Your debut here is actually one of the most awaited moments of the show; starting tomorrow there will be people looking for recordings on youtube…
Rockne (smiling): We know.
Stefania: We are very happy to be here and, obviously, it’s always a great experience having the chance to be followed by the audience. I think we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in the future, but what we know for sure is that we’re going to leave all the doors open because we haven’t picked our path yet.

But you’re not ready to leave competitive skating…
Stefania: No.

Are you doing any research on potential partners…?
Stefania: I’ve done, I’ve done. And it didn’t go well. Until now.

So you haven’t got your eyes on someone in particular…
Stefania: No.

But the Italian Federation supports you?
Stefania: Yes, they’re behind my back.

After “Kings on Ice Olympic Gala”, will you skate with Rockne in some other shows… or this is it for now?
Stefania: Well, we’ve been asked for other shows, so we’ll see what to do, because, obviously, we want to be a part of the skating world for now and for a long time to come.

What are you skating here? What are your programs for “Kings on Ice Olympic Gala”?
Stefania: We’re going to skate to “Gravity” and, also, a very funny program called “Pretty Woman”.

You both look like you’re having a great time here, during rehearsals…
Stefania: Yes, Ari is great, you cannot have bad times with Ari [Ari Zakarian - Evgeni Plushenko’s agent, show producer, choreographer; in Bucharest, he choreographed both the opening and the finale of “Kings on Ice Olympic Gala”]

Cast of "Kings on Ice Olympic Gala" practicing the finale. With her wonderful smile, Stefania lights up the room.

Cast of “Kings on Ice Olympic Gala” practicing the finale. With her wonderful smile, Stefania lights up the room.

So, this season is out of the question…
Stefania: Well, probably. There wouldn’t be enough time to get ready, I would say, but doors are open and we haven’t made our decision yet.

From what I understood, your dad, Stefania, is accompanying you to this show…
Stefania: Yes, today he is here. And my dad has always been a great part of my skating career, he’s been the only one that always supported me. Even when I wouldn’t believe I could make it, he was the one believing in me. He doesn’t usually come to either competitions or shows, but this is a very special occasion and he really wanted to see me and Rockne skating together. It’s a very emotional situation.

Stefania, looking back, are there any moments in your career that you feel particularly attached to, that stayed in your mind more than others?
Stefania: I have many. That’s true, I have so many. One is when me and Ondrej won the Grand Prix in Canada last year, because we had such a great skate and the good thing about it was that no matter what the result would have been – because we didn’t know we won; actually, Meagan and Eric hadn’t even skated yet – we were so accomplished with the way we skated. So that was a great moment in time. Or the first medal, at the Europeans…
But there are some other great moments that people maybe don’t know about: the first time we came here to skate in the show, in 2012, and we started to do our Dirty Dancing choreography… People started to clap and we hadn’t even moved – I was like Woooow! You know, that moment had a great impact on me… And everytime the audience supports you is awesome. Like in Japan, in March, at the World Championships, when we had people standing up after our performance. Those were moments in time that are so special. And, obviously, now that I’m skating with Rockne, it’s such a combination… It’s not only about the sport, it’s about emotions as well – and this is unique.

A love story on the ice: Stefania and Rockne in Bucharest, during rehearsals

A love story on the ice: Stefania and Rockne in Bucharest, during rehearsals

I have to ask that again: are you considering skating together in competitions?
Rockne: I think Stefania said it very well, like we don’t plan or want to close the door on any opportunities that might come our way or that we might feel open to. It’s just a matter of taking it one day at a time. This is all very new to us… You know, it’s our first time skating together on the ice, performing for people, so…

But for how long have you been practicing for this particular gala?
Rockne: We’ve been working on programs, but we didn’t know we’re going to… They asked us to do the show not too long ago, so then we really started skating. But over the summer we skated maybe a day here, a day there, nothing crazy, until we started getting ready for this show. We both love to skate and it was just a wonderful opportunity to come and skate with people that we know and see some friends again. The way that we skate is very enjoyable for us and I think because we enjoy it so much other people can enjoy it…

PHOTO-GALLERY: Stefania and Rockne, performing together for the first time, in Bucharest, at “Kings on Ice Olympic Gala”

Stefania and Rockne, practicing their programs

Stefania and Rockne, practicing their programs

Flying

Flying

Togetherness

Togetherness

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Stefania and Rockne skating to "Gravity" - their first program in the gala and their first performance together in front of an audience

Stefania and Rockne skating to “Gravity” – their first program in the gala and their first performance together in front of an audience

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Stefania, as the "Pretty Woman"

Stefania, as the “Pretty Woman”

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The Grand Finale of "Kings on Ice Olympic Gala" (October 7th, Bucharest)

The Grand Finale of “Kings on Ice Olympic Gala” (October 7th, Bucharest)

A Gala to be remembered; and Stefania and Rockne will surely remember it - for a thousand reasons

A Gala to be remembered; and Stefania and Rockne will surely remember it – for a thousand reasons