You’ll notice a word repeating in this detailed conversation with Italy’s Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri.
“We had to fight since the very beginning… It hasn’t been the easiest career, but somehow we managed to reach a very good level”. “A lot of people don’t know us – [but] we are fighters. We never missed a competition so far for any reason”. “The season after Sochi we had a small crisis… but we kept fighting again, we didn’t retire, and we are happy that we took that decision”.
And the way this season has been for them is the exact embodiment of how Charlène and Marco describe themselves: two days after having surgery on his right hand, Marco was back on the ice, they were back on the ice, skating, spinning, twizzling, looking for solutions, changing their programs almost to the very core – so they could be able, eventually, to carry on with their season and perform in their assigned Grand Prix events.
You surely saw Marco’s hand in a splint in Grenoble, in a protective gear in Sapporo – and, in spite of odds being completely unfavorable, they managed to cling to bronze medals in both of those events and continue their success strike started last season.
And so this interview is about them, the team they are, the team they became, eleven years after their try-out in France: Charlène was 19, Marco was 21, and they were both looking for partners to continue their skating careers with.
The driving force of their partnership? Look no more: themselves.
“It was more our decision to skate together and believe in our possibilities”.
So there you have it all, the story as it was, season by season – they way they made it, they way they built it.
We’re talking to Charlène and Marco after the rhythm dance in Graz, at 2020 Europeans.
Correction: after the small medalists’ press conference – the Italians are sitting in 3rd place, with their impersonation of Sandy and Danny from the musical “Grease”. And when we finally head to a corner of the press room for our scheduled interview, a whole journey waits to be discovered.
Their whole journey.
From the moment they started skating together, in May 2009 – she was a junior dancer, looking for a partner, he had only been ice dancing for four months – to current times.
And the story needed to have a particular and detailed stop as well: the story of last season, their 9th season together, their breakthrough season.
The season that made them put all their regrets and doubts away. The season that made them happy.
But then this is a story about hardships as well – and they had many, and they were bold enough to challenge them, and skate through them – and one of those hardships happened at the beginning of this season, when Marco fell, “a stupid fall”, Charlène stepped on his right hand and cut its tendon.
A path of recovery followed – one that came with every day questions, and every day solutions – and they only “recovered” their much needed level 4-spin four days before their first Grand Prix event, 2019 Internationaux de France.
Them not qualifying for the Grand Prix Final on home soil, in Turin? They took it not as a failure, however disappointing it might have been, and in Graz, at 2020 Europeans, they came with open hearts and minds, skating for themselves and not necessarily with the thought of a medal.
But we’re now sitting around a table, small bronze medals after the rhythm dance in front of us, and that’s a good, encouraging sign that Charlène and Marco were actually ready for the season.
Two days later, they’ll finish just outside the podium – but they’ll prove themselves again: having to wait and wait in the middle of the rink, due to a long deliberation on the scores of Papadakis/Cizeron, Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri will show their colours to the audience in Steiermarkhalle Schwarzslee: a testimony to their focus, self-will, determination.
One thing is sure: they’ve earned their place – and this is Charlène and Marco’s time to shine.
interview by Florentina Tone/Graz
Charlène, Marco, if I counted right, this is your 10th season on the international circuit – you debuted in 2010/2011 – yet, the story of your partnership isn’t that well known. So, if you allow me, I will start with this – how did you two team up? – and, from there, we’ll travel together into present times.
Marco [gentlemanly]: Charlène, do you want to start?
Charlène: Ok, I will [smiling]. So, ten years ago, I was skating for France, with another partner…
Were you still junior back then?
Charlène: Yes, and Marco also. We did the same Junior World Championships…
Marco: In 2009, in Sofia.
Charlène: And that was my last competition with my partner – and also for Marco. And, almost at the same time, our partners decided to stop.
So, Marco, you were ice dancing as well…
Marco: Yes, actually, I have been an ice dancer for four months before my partner decided to stop. I had been a single skater before.
Charlène: And so we tried to find other partners in our countries, but it was hard, and then we found each other through a website, icepartnersearch. Marco contacted me for a try-out…
Marco: Because her partner had stopped a little bit before, she had already sent some messages, she had already contacted other people. At the time, my profile was not online yet, I started looking a little later – in the meantime, she had already written to other people, it didn’t work out, and so when I contacted her, she was looking for another partner but she was not writing anymore…
And when did the try-out take place? Was it in Italy, in France…?
Charlène: We did it in May 2009, in France, because I had the exams for the university, and I couldn’t go to Italy at the moment. And Marco said: Ok, I can come for the try-out. And we skated for three days together and, I mean, immediately, on the first day, we felt the connection and decided we would continue.
Did you understand each other during those three days? I mean, you, Charlène, were talking in French, Marco spoke Italian…
Marco [smiling]: At the beginning it was indeed a little bit hard to communicate – but I knew some French, just a little bit, because when I was a single skater I went to France to skate during summer camps for several years.
And, from those first moments, I learned French more and more, and in two months I could speak French quite fluently – at least for every day conversations.
Like “Take my hand and…” [Charlène laughs]
Marco [smiling]: Even a little bit more than that, because I spent some time in France, at her parents’ house, so I was kind of obliged to speak French – her parents don’t speak Italian or English.
And so, in the beginning, I learned more French, more than I knew before, and then I started to teach her Italian.
So now you know each other’s language…
Marco: Yes, and now we usually speak Italian because we live in Italy, we always practice in Italy.
“IT WAS MORE OUR DECISION TO SKATE TOGETHER AND BELIEVE IN OUR POSSIBILITIES”
Going back to that very moment, the starting point of your partnership, who was the godmother or the godfather of the team? Who encouraged you in the first place to join hands and skate together? My first thought would be Barbara, of course, because she’s been standing by your side for many years already…
Marco: Actually, it was more ourselves, our parents…
Because there was a weird situation back then: Barbara, yes, she was my coach, but at that time she was having a baby. So when I started doing ice dance with the previous partner, she only coached me for one month and then she left to have her baby. So I didn’t really feel Barbara as my coach at the time.
And Charlène had a different coach, but the relationship was quite cold – so there was not really someone who encouraged us at the beginning, someone to say: Ok, that’s great – this could work.
It was more our decision to skate together and believe in our possibilities.
And our families supported us since the beginning, my parents let me go to France, her parents did the same thing…
So you spent some time in France at the beginning?
Charlène: Actually, the first year we did two months in France, two months in Italy, because we couldn’t compete in the first year, and I also had the university, so I had to stay in France.
Plus, during the first year we hadn’t yet decided which country to skate for. So we said: We can skate a little bit in France, a little bit in Italy, to see which was the best country for us.
And how was the decision taken, eventually, to represent Italy?
Marco: Well, first of all, because, in terms of possibilities, at the time Italy was offering us to go and compete since the beginning in major events. It was offering more opportunities.
Because, I remember that in France, when we started skating together, there were Péchalat/Bourzat, Carron/Jones, there was Mathieu Jost, the previous partner of Pernelle, who was skating with a Russian girl, there were Zoe/Pierre-Loup [Zoe Blanc/Pierre-Loup Bouquet]. Comparing to Italy, it was a little bit harder…
Not that in Italy wasn’t hard: there were Cappellini/Lanotte, Faiella/Scalli, so…
It was not an easy decision, but, anyway, it was maybe a little bit easier to compete for Italy.
And the Italian federation showed more interest in us than the French federation. The French didn’t really come and say, nobody came to us and said: Ok, we would be interested in having you.
When you said that, at first, you spent two months in Italy, two months in France, where was it, exactly?
Marco: In Milan and in Brest, which is Charlène’s home town.
FIRST SEASON: “WE STARTED IMMEDIATELY WITH THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS!”
From your first competitive season as a team, what do you remember the most? The first programs, the first competition, the first medal? I checked, and you were third in Golden Spin, third in Mont Blanc Trophy – and you even travelled to your first Worlds, in Moscow, in 2011…
Marco: Personally, I remember the World Championships. Because in our first season we could compete and… we went straight to Moscow! And I remember that because it was like… Wooow! [you can sense the excitement in Marco’s voice].
Charlène: We started immediately with the World Championships!
Marco: We didn’t compete at Europeans that year, but we competed at Worlds – and it was such an amazing experience! Going to such an important event, with so many people watching!
Charlène: We didn’t expect it – in the first season, immediately, to go to Worlds!
[eyes sparkling – and they still remember the enthusiasm of those Worlds in 2011]
Marco: And see so many champions, so many big names – and competing with them!
I remember the first practice… You know that at the beginning of each competition the groups are divided by nations – not by ranking or by starting orders, but by nations. And we were with the Canadians – we were in the same group with Virtue/Moir!!!
First practice… and we even stopped them! I don’t remember what they were trying, but we stopped them, and I was like: Oh, my God!
No, but it was really a great moment – and that’s probably the most important memory I have from the first season.
Marco: And I also remember that since the first season we had to fight a lot, even in Italy, because we had some troubles… Not with the passport, because we knew that we could probably have the passport before the Olympic Games, but let’s say that, in Italy, the federation at that time was supporting more another couple, even if they had never defeated us in competitions.
And, since the first season, until Sochi, I remember that the situation was really…
Marco: Yes, we had to fight since the very beginning.
But you made your way through, eventually…
Marco: Yes, I mean, it hasn’t been the easiest career, but somehow we managed to reach a very good level.
»» A PHOTO-JOURNEY INTO CHARLÈNE AND MARCO’S CAREER, 2011-2018
A long journey followed, in which you kept progressing, and climbing the rankings – and, finally, in your 9th season together – that’s 2018/2019 season – that’s when the big medals finally came, and let me do a short recap here.
Your first Grand Prix medal, silver at Skate America, your second Grand Prix medal, silver in Helsinki, you qualified for your first Grand Prix Final in Vancouver – and won the bronze there…
Charlène is laughing: Yeah, that’s a lot in a short period of time.
…your first National title [Marco is laughing now: Yeah!], then, Bam!, the bronze at Europeans. Last season was your breakthrough season.
So let’s travel into memories again: when you look back at this season – your most successful one so far – what’s the first thing that you see?
Charlène: The most important memory… It’s hard because…
Marco: There are so many good memories from last season!
Charlène: I can’t choose between the podium at the Grand Prix Final and the podium at the Europeans.
Because the Final was just a big surprise! For us it was the first Final, and we immediately medalled, and we were just Wooow!
But the Europeans [2019 Europeans in Minsk], we did so many European Championships before – and so many times we skated very well, and we didn’t get the results. So many times!
So, finally, it was like: Aaaah! We skated well and, finally, we reached our goal!
Marco: It was more like a relief at the European Championships.
Charlène: There were two emotions…
Marco: Very different!
Charlène: Very different, but very strong. So for me, these two things stayed, because they are very different, and it’s difficult to choose.
And, at the end of the Europeans, I was SO happy and, at the same time, after that, I was like: Oh, my God, we waited so much time to reach this position!
Marco: Yes, it was a reward.
»» 2019 Europeans in Minsk: THE ANATOMY OF JOY
Marco: Personally, I have more good memories about the Final in Vancouver, because we lived it more… pacifically.
I mean, we were in the Final, we were already very happy to be there, because, like you said, it was our first season in which we got medals at the Grand Prix [events], so it was… not unexpected, because once we saw the entries at the Grand Prix, we knew we could have made it – but then, thinking of a medal at the Final, that was a different story.
And we really lived that week in Vancouver like… Even if it was completely different as a competition, I had similar memories from our first Olympic Games. The first time we went to the Olympics [in Sochi, in 2014], we had nothing to lose, it was a new experience, a great experience!
And so we really lived the Grand Prix Final week calm, relaxed, we were not expecting anything…
Charlène: We enjoyed it…
Marco: We visited Vancouver, which is a very beautiful city… While in Minsk, at the Europeans, it was a little bit different.
Charlène: We felt more the pressure…
You were indeed the Europeans with the best result at the Grand Prix Final…
Marco: Yeah, exactly! So at Europeans somehow we knew we would have fought for a medal. We didn’t know if we would have made it, but we knew there was this possibility. So there was more pressure.
And, I know it might sound weird, but every competition, if you also enjoy the city, the atmosphere, the environment, you enjoy the competition on the ice more. And last year in Minsk, for example, it was really cold, we couldn’t do a little bit of sightseeing, we couldn’t walk around – and, you know, when you just spend your time in the hotel and in the ice rink, you live the competition different.
And, like I said, it might sound weird, because you should go to competition and just be focused on the competition, but we can’t be focused on the competition 24 hours per day!
And in Vancouver it was nice, the hotel was downtown, and we could walk, change our minds a little bit, enjoy the atmosphere, while in Minsk it was different and we felt the pressure more.
“WE FELT THAT IT WAS FINALLY OUR MOMENT”
I will come back to a different moment of your last season, if you allow me.
The way we see it, the moment you won the silver medal at Skate America, your first big medal, was a defining moment – a sign that things might go differently for you from then on. Because, to us, you were always very well prepared, very strong, your programs have been among the most technically demanding… yet, it seemed to us that you were not always rewarded for what you did on the ice.
So when you finally accomplished that, you finally took that medal, did you feel that was a significant moment, did you feel that things might change for you?
That you finally reached that peak that always seemed to escape you?
Marco: Well, we felt that it was finally our moment.
Marco: Because, you know, unfortunately, unfortunately [emphasizing], in ice dance, being the second couple of the country, sometimes you have to wait for your moment. And some people are lucky enough to become first couple in their country early, some other don’t.
And we were not lucky in that sense, because Cappellini/Lanotte…
Had a long career…
Marco: Yes – and we didn’t have such a big age difference. They are older than us, but not that much, they competed until two years ago.
So [winning the GP medal] was a big relief. But it was also somehow funny, because we said: Ok, but we didn’t improve that much from the season before!
[Charlène is laughing: Yeah!]
Marco: We are honest here: I mean, when you’re 15 to 16, when you’re much younger, maybe you can see a huge difference from one season to another, you can see much more the improvement from one season to the other – but then, as time goes on, it’s harder to show such a big difference from one season to the next. Because you’re slowly reaching your maximum, the maximum you can give.
So we are very honest and objective – like, we didn’t improve that much from the season before.
And that’s why we felt relieved by getting these medals at the Grand Prix, because we finally said: Ok, things are changing for us – things are starting to be a little bit different.
And the fact that you are now Italy’s number one team might have changed the way you are perceived…
Marco: Yes, of course.
»» 2018-2019 Grand Prix Series: THEIR TIME HAS COME
“WE ARE FIGHTERS, WE NEVER MISS COMPETITIONS”
Leading to this season, the fact that you entered with a Grand Prix Final bronze, with a European bronze – did it change your attitude towards competition, did it change the way you work, did it change your mindset? Did it change something in you?
Marco: It’s hard to answer this question, because, unfortunately, we didn’t have a normal first half of the season.
We couldn’t compete in the major events of the first half of the season in normal health, we had to adjust everything because of my hand. Because we also didn’t want to miss the first part of the season…
Did you fear that if you missed the first part you might lose the momentum…?
Marco: No, it was not a matter of fear, it’s just that we are more like… You don’t know us, and a lot of people don’t know us – we are fighters.
So we never missed a competition so far for any reason, even when we maybe had injuries.
[Charlène is telling Marco something in Italian, showing him her lower arm]
Marco: For example, Charlène had a small broken bone here [they show me the hand], you can still feel that’s a little bit curvy, and she skated for quite a long part of the season with this broken bone. And then, in the Olympic season, the Sochi Olympic season…
Charlène: About this one I couldn’t do anything, because it was not broken, it was just a little bit bruised, so I just needed to wait, and not use it. But I had to skate, it was three months before Olympics, and I was: Ok, I have to practice, but I have to try and not to use this part that much…
Marco: And again we changed some elements…
But, as I said, we are fighters, we never miss competitions, and when we saw, before the first Grand Prix, that…
To make everything clear, your hand-injury happened when? At Lombardia Trophy, in September, everything was fine, I remember…
Marco: At  Lombardia Trophy my hand was ok.
So we did the first competition of the season, I was fine, I was healthy, we took two or three days off after Bergamo – and then, after a week on the ice, I fell. It was a stupid fall, we were in the side by side step sequence, and I don’t even know how I fell – I probably put my hand down, and she stepped on my hand.
But I didn’t feel the pain at the moment – no, we finished our run-through, because it was our short dance run-through, I finished all I had to do, and then I washed my hand, I wasn’t feeling anything weird. And then I saw the skin was open and I could see the tendon under, moving a little bit.
And I had surgery and, at the beginning, the doctor told me that it would take at least two months to heal – and at the time we didn’t think that we could change the entire programs, completely avoiding the use of the hand.
We didn’t think this would be even possible.
And it’s the right hand – which is even worse than the left hand.
And the Grand Prix [their first GP event, 2019 Internationaux de France] was one month after the injury. As you can imagine, we didn’t think that we could compete.
But we never stopped skating. Two days after the surgery, I was on the ice, skating, with protection… And, as we were getting closer and closer to the competition…
You realized that you might make it after all…
Marco: Yes. Because right from the start, we said: We can’t spend two months without doing twizzles, or lifts, or spins, or everything. Otherwise, it would mean to miss almost the entire season. So we had to find ways to try some elements…
Charlène: One day, we found the solution for one thing, afterwards, we found the solution for other thing….
Marco: And as we were getting closer to the competition, we realized that it was possible.
Charlène: We were only missing the spin, because in the spin he needs to catch me [with his right hand]. And four days before the Grand Prix, we said: Ok, we have to find the solution for the spin. And we did the spin – not a beautiful spin, but I said: Ok, it’s a level 4, we can do it in the program. I mean, it’s not an amazing spin, but we can do it like that.
Marco: So we said: Ok, let’s go, see what happens.
And all seemed to work out just fine…
Marco: Yeah, I mean, it was not bad. It could have been better had I been healthy.
Charlène: But we didn’t want to stay at home, watch the competition and say: Aaaaah! [regretful] We said: We have to try!
Marco: And we knew that, unfortunately, the Final was in Turin. But, competing in this condition, we got the maximum we could.
But did you still hope, until the very last moment, that you might reach the Grand Prix Final – even under the circumstances?
Marco: Not really, no – because we are realistic.
I mean, we were already quite happy and satisfied with the performances. There were some mistakes, of course, because we couldn’t practice that much, we couldn’t do many run-throughs, and then, after the first Grand Prix event, we also had the crazy idea to change the short dance…
Yes, tell me about it!
[Charlène is laughing]
So how did your Paramour rhythm dance turn into Grease? Whose idea was it?
Marco: Well, at the beginning, we were looking for a musical which was not very popular.
But, unfortunately, as it often happens, things which are not really popular pay less than popular things.
And so we said: Ok, what do we do? Do we continue with Paramour? Because we had, not bad feedbacks, but, you know, there were many judges after Lombardia Trophy, and even after the Grand Prix in France, that were….
Charlène: “But we don’t know the music, what is this?” You know? And you’re like: Ok, I don’t want to hear this all season…
Marco: Yes, it would have been probably stupid from us to keep that program, considering that everybody kept saying the same things. It was like: Hmmm!
And Hmmm! is not good.
Marco: They didn’t actually say it was not good, but something like: “It could be better”.
Charlène [trying to replicate the feedbacks]: “It’s good, but it’s not direct, it’s not…”
Marco: “It’s not very effective”, and with another music it would be easier…
Yes, because the music can already tell a part of the story…
Marco: As you can see, many couples are skating on very popular music – like “Singin’ in the Rain”, “Fame”, Olivia and Adri are skating to “Grease” as well…
And so it might have been a good decision after all, to change it…
Marco: Yes, but somehow I don’t like the fact that we were kind of obliged to change the program – because I would have liked to continue our way.
But you have to listen to the others as well, because, otherwise, if you only follow your direction, your path, then it’s not going to bring you anywhere – so we decided to change it to “Grease”.
And are you happy with this second choice of yours?
Marco: And we also chose “Grease” because we skated on it three years ago, so it was somehow a character that we already knew.
Charlène: And we had only ten days to change it, in between France and Japan. So we said: Ok, in ten days, we can take one week for the change and we will see if it’s ok or not. But when we put the music on the ice, immediately we felt more involved…
Marco: Yeah, we immediately started dancing…
Charlène: And also other skaters at our ice rink, everybody started to dance…
Marco: Because, of course, everybody knows “Grease”! It’s a popular music…
Charlène: And also for us, to skate on “Grease” is funnier, of course.
“WE WANTED TO CREATE OUR CHARACTERS”
And what about the very peculiar, intriguing spatial free dance of yours, that is really among the highlights of the season? Who chose the theme, the music? It’s a wonderful package, from music to choreography to costumes and make-up. Lead me into the story.
Marco: Well, we were listening to a lot of music from the seventies, the eighties, because we wanted to find a music that was good on the ice, but which would also allow us to create a different program, a more particular program.
And also without using contemporary music. Because on contemporary music you can always build your own story. And a lot of skaters are skating on contemporary music in recent years, so we wanted to find something different.
We wanted to create our characters – with, as you said, particular costumes, particular make-up…
And how did you come-up with the costumes, the make-up?
Marco: [laughing] Internet.
Charlène: Yes, for the costumes, we saw one dress in a… [She says it in Italian: “una sfilata”].
Marco: On the catwalk, a fashion catwalk.
Charlène: And I said: Oh, I like this! So we went to the costume maker and we said: Can you do this?, It’s a bit hard, but I can try – Ok, so you have to try! [Charlène is laughing]
I thought: if the costume maker does a good job, this will be beautiful – otherwise… And then I went to the costume maker and I was like: Oh, yes, I like it!
But building your own characters in this free dance, is there a story you want to portray? If you were to describe the dance, what would you tell?
Marco: It’s more like a dreamy dance, because “Space Oddity”, “Life on Mars”, somehow they bring you somewhere… Not just because of the titles, but even if you listen to the lyrics, there’s sort of a message behind, a futuristic message – and so we wanted to bring something a little bit new in terms of style on the ice.
So it was more about the style, the attitude we give on the ice – and we’re always trying to show the best qualities we have. We are fast, we are strong…
THEY KNOW THEIR STRENGTHS – AND THEY USE THEM TO THE FULLEST
Tell me about that, yes – what do you consider to be your biggest qualities?
Marco: Well, of course, since we are not tall…
But you look tall on the ice!
Marco: Yeah, we know… [smiling]
You actually look taller than in real life… [Charlène is 1.57, Marco is 1.65]
Marco: Yes, because we worked a lot on that during our career.
Like if somebody is 20 centimeters taller than us, he can just do a movement like that [he shows a soft move in the air], while we have to make the extreme version of that movement. And so we try to stretch all the lines the best we can, try to make all the movements as big as we can.
And we always look, I think, big on the ice because we try to work a lot on the ice coverage.
And we try to do it very fast as well, because, otherwise, if we were short and slower, we would actually look even smaller on the ice. But if we are fast on the ice, then we cover the ice much more, and we don’t look small anymore.
So we use these qualities that maybe other skaters don’t have – because maybe other skaters are not as fast as we are… And fast not only in terms of speed on the ice, but also in terms of doing the elements.
So that’s where, every season, we’re trying to work on.
Coming here in Graz, at Europeans, as bronze medalists – you said in the press conference after the rhythm dance, minutes ago, that your goal here is not specifically a medal…
Marco: This is true, yes.
Would you like to elaborate on that?
Marco: I mean, for real, from outside people don’t understand just how hard the beginning of the season has been for us. And it has really been hard.
For many reasons: we changed the skates this summer, because we wanted to try something different, but it was not immediately working, so, at the beginning of the summer, we had some problems – it was not as easy as we thought it would be to change.
And, then, we had only a little time to prepare the new season, because we competed at World Team Trophy last season, so we finished the season at the end of April. And, usually, we finish one month earlier. So we had one month less compared to almost all the other skaters in the world, except for those who also competed at the World Team Trophy, to create and prepare the new programs.
And, then, this injury, which slowed down everything.
Usually, after the first competition of the season, so after Lombardia Trophy, we would spend a lot of time before the Grand Prix to fix all we have to fix – but this year we couldn’t do anything, basically!
All the time we spent on the ice was just to find ways to… adjust.
Charlène: To find solutions to the problems.
Marco: But not to make improvements. And so we were never ready for real.
With your hand in a splint, you almost had to prepare an additional set of programs…
Marco: Yeah, exactly!
So we were never ready in competitions, and that’s also a reason why, in this first half of the season, we made more mistakes than usual. Because if you see our past seasons, we never made so many mistakes like in this one.
And the problem is, when you start the season like that, you become a little bit more insecure.
Last season, for example, was quite easy for us. Because when you start the season well, and you start competing well, the confidence goes up as well.
But at the beginning of the season, all the security we had last season kind of vanished. Because we never performed the way we wanted to in competition.
For the Europeans now, did you feel you had the time to prepare?
Marco: Yes, now we feel better, mentally we’re fine – but never say never.
Because we didn’t have many competitions, many good competitions behind us. So you never know how your body, how your mind is going to react in competition.
And it was very good for us to see that we are actually ready.
…and that’s why I said we didn’t come here with a specific goal in terms of result.
Of course, we’re here to fight for a medal, I don’t want to say that we’re not – but it’s not our main goal. We really want to bring good performances home with us.
Then, of course, if we go back with a bronze medal at the end of the competition, not just a small medal… [smiling] This is nice [showing the small bronze medals on the table], but it doesn’t count for anything, people forget about these medals.
Do you see yourselves continuing until Beijing? I mean, is this the target, the ultimate goal?
Marco: Yes, definitely.
And how do you see your journey leading to Beijing? How will you keep your fresh, and ready, and motivated? It might be kind of early to talk about it, but still…
Marco: It’s not that far actually, it’s just two years before. And, definitely, that’s our ultimate goal, because I think it will be our last season, I don’t think we are going to continue after that.
To Worlds in Montpellier, maybe?
Marco: Oh, yes, the whole season. We will compete in Montpellier as well – unless something big happens.
But, to keep fresh for the Olympics… We’ll keep working the way we’re doing.
We will take care of our bodies, because it’s important when you get a little bit older, you have to rest more… So far, the injuries we had were more like accidental injuries. Physically, we are fine. And we are quite lucky, we never had muscles injuries, major injuries.
We will try to continue this way.
AFTER LAST SEASON, THEY ARE HAPPY. “WE BASICALLY GOT ALL WE WANTED”
When you look back at your journey, at your career so far, are you happy with what you see?
Marco: Now, yes [Charlène is nodding in agreement].
Until PyeongChang, I will be honest: So and so.
Ok, there was this big satisfaction of competing at two Olympic Games – and the next one is going to be our third one – but thinking that we had the potential to bring some medals, to finish our career with some medals, more important medals, even Grand Prix ones…
I know it sounds weird, but until PyeongChang we never got medals at Grand Prix. We were, I don’t know, five times 4th place…
Charlène: We were 5th, we were 4th… Every time, 4th, 4th, 4th… [like a chanting almost]
It was getting frustrating, I think…
Marco: Yes. And, finally, last season, we basically got all we wanted.
That’s why I mentioned at the beginning that even for the rest of us it felt like a very long journey to the medals. But have you, during those years, questioned yourselves if there was any point in continuing? Have you had a conversation about what was it that was not working for you?
Marco: Well, yes. I remember that the season after Sochi, which was our fifth season together, we had like a small crisis.
Because we were expecting that after Sochi the results would improve a little bit faster. And they didn’t.
We had been very excited for the Olympic qualification the year before, and afterwards we said: Ok, now we are a little bit more experienced, we’re not a new-new couple, because, you know, sometimes you also have to wait a couple of seasons…
So, yes, the season after Sochi was a little bit hard. I remember that I wanted to stop skating because I couldn’t see our results improving – not as fast as I wanted to.
But then we kept fighting again, we didn’t retire – and we are happy that we took that decision. Because otherwise we would not be here with the medals we have in our apartment in Milan.
You cherish those medals – and you put them in a…
Marco: We have a box. [they’re laughing]
And not just the medals, we’re having many souvenirs – we just moved into a new apartment, so we brought a big box with different souvenirs from our childhood, and the medals are also there. So it’s many memories from our life.
Talking about that, do you have a favorite skating memory?
Marco: Just one is difficult, because the experiences are so different! Like the excitement of going to the first Olympic Games is unbelievable! When you get the first important medals is an unbelievable feeling as well.
To be honest, the Italian Championships last year has been one of the less exciting memories…
Charlène: Because we were so tired after the Final…
Marco: Yes, and it was not a real competition last year… and we competed three days after Vancouver. Trust me, it was not exciting at all!
Charlène: We just wanted the holidays! [laughing]
So when your journey is over, you will be satisfied with what you accomplished…
Marco: Yes. We are happy already.
Now, as I said, we don’t have any regrets.
Charlène: After the last season.
Marco: Of course, we know that we can still give something more – and we can also get something more from this sport.
Because when you make so many efforts, so many sacrifices during your career, you also want to be rewarded at a certain point. Otherwise, you just think: Ok, why did I do that?
And it’s not just a matter of being rewarded through medals – it’s everything.
Because you know that your parents made so many efforts when you were younger and you, also, as a skater, made efforts – so, even financially, you want to be rewarded a little bit at a certain point.
But finances are secondary, anyway. Getting emotions back… You gave a lot to this sport – and you want emotions back, medals as well, if you succeed in getting them.
[interview by Florentina Tone, Graz/photos by Alberto Ponti, Julia Komarova, Natasha Ponarina, International Skating Union]