…and how could she not?
Emmi comes from a family where skating, in whichever form, reigns supreme.
Last year, during the Olympics in South Korea, she made the news with being the third generation of Olympians in Peltonen family: her paternal grandfather competed in ice hockey at four Olympic Winter Games, her father won medals in other four as a part of Finnish national hockey team – and there you had Emmi going to PyeongChang in what was the Peltonens’ ninth Olympics.
And if this wasn’t enough, both her mother and grandmother were figure skaters. And her (one year older) twin brothers are hockey players.
No wonder Emmi got her first pair of skates shortly after she had learned to walk.
“After that, I was kind of glued to the sport”, she smiled, while remembering how her love story with skating started. And Carolina Kostner might have played a part as well – she saw her live when she was 6, and she decided: “I wanna skate like that”.
And so she did, she does – artistry-wise, Emmi Peltonen’s presence in Minsk, at this year’s edition of the Europeans, has been one of our biggest takeaways. Innate musicality, refinement, a striking maturity of movements – she lets them breathe, she never rushes – and an obvious blend of power and grace. Plus: this wonderful ability to take you in her stories and capture the very essence of the characters that she portrays.
She keeps us glued, that’s what she does – a sweet addiction to her skating, and a promise for the years to come.
When Emmi’s third Europeans ended – she was 11th in 2017, 9th in 2018 and 8th this year in Belarus – we talked about personal history, idol(s), programs and starting the new Olympic cycle with Stéphane Lambiel in her coaching team.
by Nadia Vasilyeva/Minsk
Nadia Vasilyeva: Hello, Emmi, and thank you for your time. How are you feeling after your free skate today? [the interview took place right after Emmi’s free skate in Minsk, on January 25th]
Emmi Peltonen: It wasn’t my best. I know that I have a program that I’m perfectly capable of doing, but I made mistakes. But I’m very happy that I fought, and after the mistake I corrected it in the next one, and that’s what I’m really happy about.
The last two seasons you made quite an impression on the skating world with your beautiful skating, musicality – and we would very much like for our readers to get to know you better. Especially with your story, and your family’s story being so rich and so interesting. So let’s start at the beginning. You were born in Nashville, Tennessee – can you tell a little bit about that, how come a Finnish girl was born in USA?
Yes. I was born in Nashville because my dad was playing in NHL, for Nashville Predators, at the time. So we lived in the States. I started school in Florida, and I skated in Florida with Evgeni Ardanov and Richard Callaghan. I was there until I went to Finland when I was in 5th or 4th grade. And after that I’ve skated for Finland.
You have quite a history of skating in your family. Both your father and grandfather were hockey players – and legends of the sport in Finland…
Yes. I think my dad had three or four Olympic medals. They both are Olympians, so for me to go to PyeongChang last year was pretty emotional and exciting.
[Emmi’s father, Ville Peltonen, is a four-time Olympic medalist with Finland’s national ice hockey team: bronze in 1994, 1998 and 2010, silver in 2006. Her grandfather, Esa Peltonen, represented Finland in ice hockey at four Olympic Games, from 1968 to 1980, and was inducted into the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame. Both Esa and Ville are huge names in the history of Finnish ice hockey – Ed.]
Did they give you any advice about how to treat the Olympics, how not to be crushed by them? Olympics can do that too…
They told me to take everything in. Like, “You have your own event, you have your skating, but you have to enjoy everything that’s surrounding you, the atmosphere”.
And there was so much there, and so different. I love that every country was like one. We were at the closing ceremony, we all had flags and we were walking, and it was beautiful, it was amazing.
Did you go to any other Olympics before, as a viewer maybe?
I did. I went to watch my dad in Torino [in 2006; Emmi was 6 – Ed.]. We were living in Lugano at the time. I lived there for three years, because of my dad again, playing hockey there.
We drove to Torino, and my mom actually surprised me to go watch my idol, Carolina Kostner. She surprised me with tickets to watch the free program, and I was in heaven. I saw everyone, and that’s when I think… my mom told me that I kept saying “I wanna skate like that. I have to do this” [laughs].
„I NEVER COULD HAVE TAKEN MY SKATING HALF-WAY”
I read somewhere that you got your first skates when you were 2 years old. That’s pretty early.
As soon as I started walking, I was 1 year and a half maybe, it wasn’t long before I was on skates. I was actually in my mom’s lap and my brothers were skating – they were playing hockey, and I just kept pointing, like, I wanna go, I need to go down and skate! And then my mom has gotten me skates, and that’s how I started. After that, I was kind of glued to the sport [smiles].
And you mom, she was a skater too?
Yes. And my grandmother.
Oh, wow, the whole family. Do you remember when you decided that you wanted to be a real, professional skater yourself, that you wanted to take it seriously?
My mom put me in ballet, different kinds of dances, I was in gymnastics – I was doing everything. But I was always into skating. And I always chose skating over everything. And having my father, seeing his professional career from first row – I never could have taken my skating half-way. I always took it very professionally. I think I always knew that skating was my thing. But when I was probably 13, I was like: You know what? I wanna be there. I wanna be at Europeans, I wanna be at Worlds and Olympics. That’s when the whole worlds just changed.
And when it comes to your favorite skaters, who inspired you – you already mentioned Carolina Kostner, of course. Anyone else, someone you dreamed to be like one day?
I was always so mesmerized by Carolina, she’s probably the only one. But I also admired Kimmie Meissner. She was skating with Richard [Callaghan] when I was in Florida, and I saw her skating every day, and I saw her working so hard, and that was my inspiration there.
From the men’s side – my coach right now, Stéphane Lambiel. He’s amazing, and I’m so happy that I’m working with him now. I feel like we’re a little bit similar.
In what way?
He’s so into the music, he’s such a performer. And I’m also very into the music, I love choreography, and I love skating, but also I love performing. It’s been very good to be with him.
It’s a pretty recent turn in your career – working with Stéphane. When and how did that happen?
My dad is coaching in Switzerland right now, in Lausanne, and I was visiting him. And I actually met Stéphane a couple of years ago, and I just messaged him, like: “Hi, can I come and train? I’m here to visit my dad, but I would love to be on the ice too. So can I come in to skate?” And then they just took me as their own.
And I really liked how they coached me, I liked how they trained, I liked how everything was working there. So I started going there more. But I also have my Finnish coach, I have two coaches, I skate in Finland and in Switzerland.
Also, until recently, you had Rafael Arutyunyan listed as one of your coaches. For how long did you work with him?
Very long. I still have all the respect for him. I just had to find something closer, ’cause he works in Los Angeles, and I have all my competitions in Europe, and with the time difference it was very difficult. So I wanted to find something closer, and Stéphane is very good.
But I worked with Rafael for a long time. I went there the first time when I was 13 or 14, and I’m now 19. Rafael is amazing, and so is Stéphane. They have different styles of work, but they both are very efficient and they both work wonders.
Your programs this season are really beautiful and they both seem to suit you so well. Can you tell me a little bit about how you chose the music, is there any special story behind them?
[Emmi skates to “Caruso” by Lucio Dalla, performed by Jacki Evancho, in the short program, and to music from the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha”, by John Williams, in the free]
My short program – I love the song so much. I remember hearing it for the first time 2 years ago and, with my choreographer, Mark Pillay, we were kind of waiting until I become a little bit more mature. And now that I’m 19, I kinda felt like this was the year when I could use that.
It’s so powerful and feminine, and I really wanted to try it. So I took it this year, and it’s my all-time favorite program, I love skating it.
And for the free – my choreographer just sent me the music and I just fell in love with it. I think it’s really cool, and I’ve never done a Japanese-style kind of music. After the Olympics I wanted a fresh start, I changed both of my programs – so there they are.
Emmi, these were your third Europeans. Did it get easier than the first one, or how did it feel?
I have to say, this year it’s been the hardest for some reason, I’m not sure why. I feel like my first Europeans were the easiest. And then last year was okay, and this year I feel like I’ve been more nervous.
What about when you go out the on the ice now – does it feel the same as it did when you were a little girl? What are your first memories of yourself on the ice?
I remember that I skated for probably 5 hours a day – because I just wanted to skate. I didn’t really jump, I didn’t do anything, I just did kind of an ‘improvisation’ to music [smiles]. I put some music on the rink and just skated and skated and skated.
Every time I go to some big event it reminds me that I love what I do. I love skating. It probably doesn’t feel the same as it did when I was little, I have so much experience now.
And you’ve lived up to your dream to compete, just like Carolina.
What goals did you set for yourself this season?
This year has been more about finding what’s good for me, and trying new things. I went to Stéphane to see how that works. And now I’m starting to get ready for the upcoming seasons, and for the next Olympics. I have my goals later, not really this season. I’m looking forward to the future.
SEE MORE: Emmi Peltonen at 2018 Finlandia Trophy in Espoo (October 5-7)
At 2019 European Championships in Minsk, Belarus (January 21-27)
[interview by Nadia Vasilyeva, Minsk/intro and editing by Florentina Tone/photos by Alberto Ponti, Natasha Ponarina, Askar Ibragimov, Getty Images]