You know what?
There was this Anna Cappellini air in the world of ice dancing this season – since Finland’s Yuka Orihara asked to borrow one of Anna’s Latin trademark dresses, and wore it throughout all competitions so far.
So, if you thought you saw Anna, in the layers and the moves of that glorious fuchsia dress, you were not the only one.
And if you feel that she is still around, connected to skating, you’re not far away from the truth either: while expecting her second child (remember, the Italian dancer is married to former pair skater-now-coach Ondřej Hotárek), Anna coached in an ice rink next to her home in Italy, she took up choreography, and she also decided to become involved in judging; she became an international technical specialist last summer.
As Anna herself says with a smile: “I have always been such a nerd for the new system, for the rules, so I kind of always knew that I wanted to be involved, and get to know it, and get to handle it better. I like to see all the sides of figure skating”.
And so we talked to Anna at length about those sides of skating she’s involved in, about her life at the moment, about her projects and her dreams – and we also loved hearing her thoughts on the current state of ice dancing, and about ice dancing as this great possibility to continue one’s competitive career.
Ready to meet behind-the-boards Anna Cappellini?
interview by Florentina Tone
Anna, how is your life now, with and without skating in it? A wide question, I know…
A very wide question, yes! [smiling] Well, we had Diana in the summer of 2021, and now, a second one! [baby Oliver was born on December 20, 2022]
I remember seeing your daughter with Ondřej at Lombardia Trophy last September – so she’s already coming to skating competitions. Did she put on skates yet?
[Laughing] Actually she has!
Just last week, we were walking by the ice rink with both children, and my husband spontaneously decided to put her on the ice! The skates were so big she was barely able to stand!
So… yes, life changed quite a bit.
I think the lockdown slowed down all of our lives and, I guess, we finally had some time at home, together.
With Luca, we had done a lot of shows, so we had fun and still worked after our [competitive] career, and then, with lockdown, everything stopped and we focused on our families a little bit more.
And so Diana came and, soon after, I got pregnant again. The next few years are going to be definitely very family-oriented!
CHOREOGRAPHING FOR PAIR SKATERS
But I still like to be involved in the sport – I have always been such a nerd for the new system, for the rules, so I kind of always knew that I wanted to be involved and get to know it, and get to handle it better.
I like to see all the sides of figure skating.
So far, I’ve done the skating, and I’m starting with the coaching a little bit.
I am coaching in an ice rink next to where I live, and I have smaller teams, I have advanced novice teams… But I haven’t had anyone high level, junior or senior, that I would stand at the board with.
Hopefully, one day, I’ll get to experience that as well.
Also, Luca and I had some collaboration at IceLab in Bergamo, mostly choreography, skating skills… We’ve choreographed programs for Ghilardi / Ambrosini, Hocke / Kunkel, Valesi / Piazza and others.
So we’ve done a few choreographies for pairs, and we had a lot of fun doing it.
It’s quite different from ice dancing…
It’s very different, yes.
But I think we as ice dancers have a lot to offer to pair skating, in terms of skating skills and transitions, because, obviously, our choreographies are so intricate and complicated.
And to give, even only parts of it, to pairs skating is so interesting, so rewarding.
NEW GOAL: “TO BE THE FAIREST POSSIBLE FOR ATHLETES”
If I remember well, I also saw your name on the judging panel for the ice dancing event at Lombardia Trophy at the beginning of this season. Did you find it difficult to embark on the judging side of skating? And how do you feel this change?
I became an international technical specialist in the summer, and I am just starting to judge, I was on my first events.
Judging is difficult, no doubt – there’s this huge amount of work involved in judging, in being any type of judge, or sitting on the panel.
You have to be a connoisseur of so many things: obviously, the rules, but, sometimes, even for judges, the musics, the vocabulary of choreography – and just be able to come to the competition and give your best.
To be the fairest possible for athletes. To give the athletes the judging that they deserve.
And you have to be rational, cold, and make your best decisions.
What about the changes in ice dancing this season – there’s no pattern in the rhythm dance, there’s instead this new choreo sequence….
I mean, whenever there is a change in rules, there’s an openness to new things, to creativity, new elements, new patterns – so this year I had a ball watching, with the Latin choreo rhythm sequence.
I thought it was a really inspired decision to put in there, I think the discipline is always evolving, it’s never the same – it’s really what keeps it interesting to watch.
THE WAVE THAT PAPADAKIS & CIZERON CREATED AROUND THEMSELVES: WONDERFUL, SOFT, BIG SKATING
Anna, have you managed to keep an eye on the ice dancing family since you retired? Have you watched 2022 Olympics, for example? Are you still being that nerd for figure skating?
Oh, yes, absolutely! And if Diana, and now Oliver allow it, I still love to watch skating.
And is she – are they?
[Laughing] Not always!
I wasn’t watching the Olympics live, let’s put it this way, because I needed my energy for the day [smiling].
But, yes, I think that Papadakis and Cizeron, the last 4 years, have shown us just how skating should be. And what near perfection, perfection asterisk, should look like!
And so did Virtue and Moir before them, and maybe somebody will do it after – but I think the wave they’ve created around themselves is just this wonderful, soft, big skating, and it’s been a great change to see.
I didn’t expect all of the teams to make it to a full other quarter though [smiling], and some of them are still going on, and I’m like: Wait!, but I competed with them! But maybe I was 8 years older than some of them…
I think that some of teams out there are now taking it step by step, not committing to the whole four years before the next Olympics, but taking it season by season, and seeing how that feels….
And especially in these difficult times – for skating, and for the world in general.
In Europe everybody is struggling for different situations that we know of going on, and those require a lot of energy…
Plus, it’s a big effort for everyone to skate, to keep the ice rinks open, for the families to afford skating – but, hopefully, our sport can continue.
“YOU HAVE TO BE REALLY ABLE TO ALMOST COMPLETELY CHANGE YOUR BRAIN FOR ICE DANCE”
What about the skaters that used to be single skaters when you and Luca where competing, and now they turned to ice dancing – and I am talking about Daisuke Takahashi here… What about that? It’s a massive change…
It is, it is!
And it’s not for everybody – ice dancing requires a whole different type of training.
And you need to be ready for that: you don’t have the excitement of jumps anymore, you just have to spend hours and hours and hours working on your stroking position – and just working on being in a couple, and not just minding your own business [smiling].
So it’s not for everybody, but it’s not impossible either, like Daisuke is showing us.
Of course, he was always a skater revered by all of us for his amazing skating skills and masterful interpretations, so he had a great starting point. But it still is a different discipline, so the concentration and the tricky parts, the ones that you are most likely to make a mistake, are completely different in ice dancing. Some steps may not look hard to the single skaters or the fans, but they are in fact, and an ice dancer knows how to pay extra attention on those.
About that, I remember how I used to complain to Ondřej about how hard it was for me to watch him compete, and do all those dangerous pair skating elements, and he once told me something very true: It is much worse to watch YOU compete, because in ice dance you might fall at any moment!
But it’s not impossible to make the switch – like Kana and Daisuke are proving to the world right now, getting greater results every season and, hopefully, setting an example for others to try this path.
I mean, you wouldn’t be able to pick up single skating at 25, at 20 – with ice dancing, you still have the possibility, but you have to be really able to almost completely change your brain for ice dance.
And it’s good to know that if this side of skating is what you like and enjoy, if you enjoy skating skills, if you enjoy dancing, there could be another opportunity for you.
[smiling] And isn’t it just wonderful that we can enjoy watching Daisuke Takahashi skate again?
“OH MY GOD, THIS IS WHY WE DID IT FOR SO LONG – IT’S AMAZING!”
Anna, what do you think, how do you envision it: will you and Luca still be skating in shows around the world in the future years?
[Smiling – and pausing for a while.]
I mean, I would definitely love to – Luca and I are such good friends, and we love skating together whenever we can, so it would be amazing.
I would definitely be ready to put in some work and have some fun on the ice, because when we get the chance to be creative, and to be on the ice again, we just remember why we did for so long, and why we loved it so much.
There’s a lot of hard things about training high level, it’s extremely stressful, and I do not regret quitting – it was done, it was a big effort and it was done – but whenever we have a little opportunity to feel the joy again, it’s like: Oh my God, this is why we did it for so long – it’s amazing!
“I THANKED LUCA FOR BELIEVING IN ME”
My last question will be for you to choose the favorite skating memory of your career. The one that got stuck on your mind – the one that makes you emotional when thinking about it.
Oh! There’s definitely more than one!
But when you said emotional, at our last-last event – it was the  Worlds in Milan – after the free program, I thanked Luca for believing in me when we were still on the ice…
We’d just finished our free dance, we hugged, and then I thanked him… [and Anna’s voice becomes very emotional] and I could see that he was just…
He didn’t have any words, he wasn’t expecting that – he was speechless like even more than with the whole situation. Because it was a special day for us, even though there was no medal [Anna and Luca finished 2018 Worlds on the 4th place; this was their last competitive event].
But if they had told me, if they had asked me if I wanted to change the medal for the experience that I had, I wouldn’t have! We were already World champions, and a bronze medal wasn’t going to change that, or give a different meaning to our career.
But we skated well in Milan, we were skating on home ice, we were so emotional, everybody was crying, the ice rink felt like it was coming down on us…
And then just being able to give a little more to Luca… I don’t know, I get goose bumps even talking about it!
That was definitely a perfect moment and the most emotional one for me.
SEE MORE: Anna and Luca at 2018 Worlds in Milan
[Interview by Florentina Tone
Family photos courtesy of Anna Cappellini and Ondřej Hotárek
Other photos by Natasha Ponarina, Alberto Ponti, Askar Ibragimov, Florentina Tone]