“It’s important for me that my fans and people who support me know that it was my decision” Daniel Grassl about his change of coaches
Interview with Daniel Grassl about the decision to train with Alexei Letov and Olga Ganicheva in the USA, working with Jason Brown, new programs, and goals for the next Olympic cycle.
by FS Gossips dd. 21st August 2022
Daniel, of course, the first question is about your change of coach.
Daniel Grassl: Ok, I will start with this season. It was a very difficult season for me because of the Olympic pressure. I’ve already had an idea that maybe in the future I’d like to try something new, a new experience. Of course, there was also some personal motivation for the changes. I also think that losing a connection with a coach is normal for an athlete’s career. So, for about a year I have been already thinking about where I can go, and what would be great for me. For many years I have wanted to move to America or to do camps because I like how they work there. I have even said this in a few interviews.
It was difficult for me to say about my decision to people who support me and of course to my coach. I’m very thankful to Lorenzo Magri and all my team for their work and for believing in me during these amazing 7 years, but it’s time for me to gain new experience.
I was a bit offended after the interview that Angelina (Turenko – works together with Lorenzo Magri in Egna, Italy) did because for me it’s very important that my fans and people who support me know that it’s my decision. This decision is an important step in my life and I want to take full responsibility for it. It can also be a bad decision; you never know what life will bring you, but at least I’m happy because it was my decision.
I would also like to thank the president of the club Nicoletta Ingusci. She was very supportive and happy about my decision: go to America, get new experiences, develop, and become more independent also in life. Nicoletta Ingusci helped me a lot, went to Boston with me for my try-out to see whether it’s gonna be a good place for me to train, and spoke with my new coaches. I’m very thankful to her and my sponsor, they are always on my side.
I also asked the president of the club, whether it’s possible for me to still have a place to train in Egna when I come back to Italy. She said ‘Of course,’ spoke with the team and it was agreed. So whenever I come back to Italy, I can train with my team and friends.
When first rumors about your possible change of coach and moving to the USA appeared, fans started to guess: oh, maybe it’s Rafael, maybe Tom Zakrajsek. And everyone was quite surprised by your choice. Both Alexei Letov and Olga Ganicheva are originally from Russia and Russian figure skating schools. You have mentioned several times in verious interviews that you would like to try to work with a Russian specialist. So did it play any role in your choice or maybe there are other reasons?
Daniel Grassl: Yes, of course, that was also one of the reasons. I read an interview with Olga and I was really curious about their training methods. I liked how she described her work. She is very determined, and that is what I like about a coach. In America, they have a bit different system of work based on individual lessons. Usually, in Europe, we have group lessons. In Boston, they tried to combine both European and American systems which I liked and found interesting.
Since they moved to Boston, they have had really great results. They improved a lot with all of their skaters and I was surprised about that. I liked training with them. With Olga, I was working on skating skills and presentation side and with Aleksei, we worked on technique. They are very determined. They’re strong characters, and they really want to show results. In Italy, we say “hungry”, hungry for results. And I appreciate that.
But for now, on the international level, they are mostly known for their work with pair skaters, Audrey Lu / Misha Mitrofanov. Doesn’t it bother you that maybe they don’t have this experience of working with top single skaters?
Daniel Grassl: Well, they have top single skaters – Jimmy Ma, Gabriella Izzo, and the girl who represents Cyprus (Marilena Kitromilis – ed.). I saw their improvements. Jimmy didn’t have such results before, but when they moved to Boston, he started to improve so much, and the same happened with Gabby and Marilena. I think they have it [experience], I believe in them and our cooperation.
But you’re going to change not only coaches but also a place of living. New country, different culture, and language, it’s quite a challenge. Like too many changes, no?
Daniel Grassl: Yeah, but I like challenges. I was happy with this decision because it’s a motivation for me. Naturally, it will be difficult in the first months. I also had some problems with the visa. That’s why I announced it so late. I wanted to wait with the announcement until I have the visa, which I still don’t have.
When will you start training?
Daniel Grassl: I’m going to the USA this Tuesday (August 23d). I stayed there like for one month, but I have already trained with my new coaches before. After Japan, I went back to Italy, but only for 1-2 weeks, and now I’m coming back to America for one month. After that, I will return to Italy only for two days or one week for getting my visa. Then I will come back to America and after that moment it’s going to be official.
Do you think you will have enough time with all these changes to prepare for the Grand Prix series?
Daniel Grassl: I’m good with my goals and I really liked how Olga and Alexei work with me, and their method of training. I’ve already had many tryouts there in Boston, so I know how they work. And I feel like it’s a good process for being ready for the Grand Prix.
The new season is very close, many skaters have retired, and we probably won’t see Russian skaters. Do you feel that the field in men’s single skating has become a bit less competitive?
Daniel Grassl: It depends on many factors because there is always the Japanese who are very good, like Shoma Uno, Yuma Kagiyama and now Ilia is also coming, moving from juniors to seniors. So we gonna see everyone, how they worked, prepared for this season and how they will show themselves in competitions. Of course, many skaters retired, but I think it’s always like that after an Olympic year. After the Olympics, some people don’t compete and then they come back next year.
You also decided to work with a new choreographer, after many years of cooperation with Benoit Richaud. You have chosen Jason Brown. It’s also a very surprising choice.
Daniel Grassl: I thought about it many times because I wanted to try a new style, and felt that I could do it. And I really loved Jason Brown. He was one of my idols because he is a complete skater, you know, he has good jumps, good spins and of course amazing presentation. At the Olympics, I asked for his contact, in case he would ever be a choreographer. So I asked him if we could try to do a short program together. It’s the beginning of the new Olympic cycle and I want to try something new. I have to be more challenging with myself. So I tried and I am very happy about the result.
We have never seen Jason Brown as a choreographer before. Do you feel some additional responsibility that you’re going to present Jason Brown the choreographer to the world?
Daniel Grassl: Yeah. I’m happy. It also feels challenging that I’m the first skater with a program choreographed by Jason and hope that I can present it in the best possible way.
And for the free program, you decided to play it safe and work with Benoit again, right?
Daniel Grassl: Yes.
Daniel Grassl: Yeah, of course, there are some memorable pieces, but it’s also a bit more of my style. I didn’t like changing it a lot. It’s dramatic music that I feel well when I’m skating to it. So, of course, there are gonna be some lifting legs and everything like that.
Speaking of Benoit’s programs, I just couldn’t help but ask about your “Jocker” free program that you skated in the past. There was a moment when you were lifting your leg with your arms and then dropping it. It was a memorable piece of choreo, does it have some special meaning?
Oh, and a couple more questions. Also about programs. Do you have any dream program that you always wanted to do, but haven’t had a chance yet?
Daniel Grassl: I think it’s this season’s short program because I have been thinking about it for a long time. I like Donna Summer and then I saw “I feel love” by Sam Smith. I always wanted to skate to this music, it’s very special. I asked Jason if I can take this music and he loved it. Usually, after the season, I’m very tired of my music because I was listening to it all year. I don’t think it’s going to happen with this program, but of course, you never know.
Let’s make it fun. Imagine a choreographer tells you ‘Daniel, we’re doing a program and for sure it’s gonna be warhorse music’ like Carmen or Romeo and Juliet and you have no other choice, only warhorses. What would you choose?
Daniel Grassl: Hmm. It would be a classic one, I’d say. Well, Romeo and Juliett or maybe a piece of classical music. Oh, I always wanted to skate to the “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” soundtrack. I really, really liked it, but they always told me, no, it’s not your style, it’s not for you. So I gave up on this music.
And what about costumes? Have you already thought about with whom you are going to cooperate? Because in the past seasons you had some very nice costumes.
Daniel Grassl: Now I work with Marika Poli (@mapo_couture), she’s an Italian dressmaker. I’m very happy about my costumes because they suit the programs and the music. By the way, I would recommend her to many skaters. I think the costume for the short program is already sewn. There will be a few changes, but for the Japan Open, the costume will be ready.
What are your goals for this Olympic cycle?
Daniel Grassl: To improve my skating skills, improve everything. I want to work on the quad axel because I really want to do it. I’m very persistent with this idea. I have already started working on my triple axel, to make it higher and for having a quad maybe. Of course, my goal is to train well and have a good Olympic cycle, and do well in all competitions. To go to the Olympic Games in Milan having a good shot of placing on a podium. That would be great.
Does it put pressure that it’s going to be a home Olympics for you? I remember Carolina Kostner saying that actually, it was a huge pressure for her that greatly affected her performance in Torino.
Daniel Grassl: Of course, it’s gonna be like double emotions. A bit more pressure, but at the same time more exciting because the audience is going to be with you and support you a lot. That is the thing that comes to my head when I think about Milano Olympics. I like it when the audience supports a skater, it’s like you skate for them. These things make me more excited about this Olympics, but maybe, before going there, I will feel more pressure and it’s normal. But I’m already working on that with a mental coach. And for now, I’m very excited that it’s going to be Milano Cortina.
By the way, are you going to miss Italian cuisine in the USA? Or maybe you cook yourself?
Daniel Grassl: Oh yeah, I will. I would be with a friend there. It’s gonna be nice to have an Italian friend there. We gonna cook together.
You know that our blog is called FS Gossips. So maybe you have some gossip for us? Maybe something that you’ve read about yourself and thought ‘OMG how did they even come up with it?’ Like something ridiculous or funny?
Daniel Grassl: Oh, I have to think. I don’t have any ideas now. (laughs)
You can message us)
Daniel Grassl: Ok (laughs)
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