Lorenzo Magri: “It seems that Russia is interested only in victory and cares little about who will win. We have a medal, but the name doesn’t matter.”
Interview with Lorenzo Magri. The Italian specialist told how an architect from a region where there is no figure skating, became one of the strongest coaches in Europe, coaching Daniel Grassl and risks that a constant change of leaders in Russian women’s single skating can lead to.
source: championat.com dd. 9th November, 2021 by Ekaterina Efimova
Lorenzo, your skater, Daniel Grassl, is only the second Italian skater to make the podium at the Grand Prix in men’s competition. This is a great success for you, isn’t it?
Lorenzo Magri: We are very happy that we won a medal at the Grand Prix in Italy. Initially it was supposed that it will be held in China, but due to organizational issues we were lucky to host this wonderful event in Italy. Daniel’s performance wasn’t perfect, but he was able to overcome the tension. Daniel didn’t feel well all day, perhaps he had food poisoning. Three and a half hours before going on the ice, he lay in bed holding a basin: it wasn’t easy.
What do you think about the judging at the men’s competition in Turin?
Lorenzo Magri: The levels were judged very strictly. You need to look carefully, because this is the first competition where he got such a low marks for spins and step sequences. But all this are preparatory competitions, because the main goal is to get to the Olympics and approach the Games in super shape. This is a continuous learning process, at each competition we gain experience, and then work.
It’s nice that, despite these mistakes, we have come close to very big names. I think that makes Daniel think. He has a very high potential and the opportunity to take a good place in Beijing, and then reach the top of his career at the next Olympics, which will be in Italy in 2026. This is our global goal. There we want to be ready to win. This does not mean that we will win, but we need to have everything we need to do this. To be able to skate, jump like a senior skater. This is our dream and goal.
Tell us about your coaching plans for this season, strategies.
Lorenzo Magri: First of all, this is the Italian Nationals, then Dani will take part in the Universiade in Lucerne. We will try to take a good place there, the European Championships is also ahead. At the Olympics, everything will need to be carefully thought out to make the most of Grassl and Matteo Rizzo. This is a race where you cannot turn around. You need to get to the top.
Appetite comes with eating?
Lorenzo Magri: In Italy, there are no figure skating traditions like in Russia. In the beginning, I coached alone, with several colleagues. We had little ice and very few athletes. I grew up as a coach and gradually surrounded myself with the best specialists. At the dawn of my coaching career, I worked with Alexei Mishin when he came to Pinzolo. I have always taken courses, traveled all over the world and tried to study. I was engaged in roller skating, I dreamed of being a skater, but I was not, so … I can’t say that I consider myself ignorant, but I really need to learn, and I try to convey this message to my athletes. We are here to learn, and every time we start looking at the results, we need to pay attention to what the winners are doing, think, analyze and dream.
It is difficult to come out of nowhere and compete with such giants as Mishin or Orser. And it is a great honor for me that they came up to me and congratulated me on my little great achievements. For me, the fact that they recognize me as their colleague is the greatest event in history. Alexei gave me his brochure after his 80th birthday, I said my best wishes to him in Russian. When he greets me and congratulates me on the work done, I think my dream has come true. I’m still very young and for me he and Brian Orser are idols.
How did you get a passion for figure skating in general?
Lorenzo Magri: I come from Bologna and in my region of Emilia-Romagna, roller skating is well developed. But, doing roller skating, I always dreamed of performing on the ice. Unfortunately, I didn’t have this opportunity. I always wanted to do this, watched ice competitions and dreamed about them. Then, when I grew up, I went to live in Milan, entered the university and started to skate. And I continue to go towards my dream – without the obligatory goal of winning, but constantly cooperating with everyone who can help me improve my skills.
I listen to the advice of Eteri, Alexei, Brian … I really respect all these people. When we meet with them at competitions, I watch what our colleagues, our rivals are doing, I watch YouTube. Figure skating is a constantly evolving sport, you should always be aware of everything that is happening around. Now all work in sports is built differently than before. And we work differently.
What advice do Orser, Tutberidze and Mishin give you?
Lorenzo Magri: Once Eteri showed me a video of one of her girls – she showed what she can’t do, what she could do better. And she told me what to do for this. You know, these are conversations between colleagues: “This is a good jump, or maybe the right shoulder will look better if you do it like this …” Each comment is necessary and important, because there is no limit to perfection and you need to be open to everything new.
Recently, Russian coach Angelina Turenko joined your Young Goose Academy. Are you happy about this cooperation?
Lorenzo Magri: I think I was lucky because we started working with Angelina many years ago, when she worked with Anastasia Gubanova. I’m very happy to work with Angelina side by side now, especially from a human point of view, because working with Russian and Italian families is not the same thing. I saw a very attentive person, with a desire to grow in all respects, with a special attitude to sports, to family … She is a very open person, and she is the bearer of that very victorious Russian technique.
From the moment I began to follow the work of Alexei Mishin, everything goes from there. If you watch the jumps of a Korean, Chinese, Japanese or Russian in slow motion, then very similar things happen in the jumping technique. Angelina is our powerful reinforcement, our team is a family, we have a priori mutual trust, even in failures we find how to support each other and learn to go forward. I am happy with what we have built together so far.
What can you say about the phenomenon of Russian ladies? Who do you like the most?
Lorenzo Magri: I’m a fan of all girls. But I love Elizaveta Tuktamysheva incredibly. She may not be the best technically, but what she is doing at the moment is simply amazing. Hats off, for me she is number one. The rest are young girls, sometimes they lack soulfulness, but they are good and they are hard workers. But I can’t say that I am in love with their programs. I miss Carolina Kostner who was here for the Grand Prix, Ashley Wagner, Michelle Kwan, Sasha Cohen.. I miss the women charisma. These girls haven’t developed yet as women to fully express their emotions. I hope that some of them will be able to perform until the age when they grow up and can express emotions like a woman. I hope so for the sake of figure skating and fans.
Otherwise, there is a risk for Russia itself, because in such a situation many talented athletes are lost. If a girl turns 16 and if she has no content to qualify for the Olympics, then she stops skating. It is very difficult. There is a risk that idols will no longer appear, and it is they who encourage children to skate. Athletes who gained experience, changed their coach, program, choreographer, decided to work with a ballet dancer, they are more interesting to the public and they have a richer path in sports.
But isn’t the main thing in sports – victory?
Lorenzo Magri: The result is important, but there is also a downside. Judging from what we Europeans see from the outside, it seems that Russia is only interested in victory and cares little about who will win. We have a medal, but the name doesn’t matter. But skaters are like wine, they only get better with age. And if a girl leaves the sport early, then she does not have time to mature. I miss the feeling of being deeply touched at the end of the program by the story shown on the ice. I want to feel with and not just see amazing jumps.
I really respect Eteri and her entire group. I respect Svetlana Panova and other colleagues, but I would like these girls to still perform in a few years, so that we can see what they have achieved and where they have reached.
At the Grand-prix in Turin, Mikhail Kolyada, who is now training with Alexei Mishin placed higher then your skater. Can you already see the result of their work?
Lorenzo Magri: He has an excellent technical base, but his jumps are not so smooth and high so far, despite the fact that he worked a lot. Quite static jumps compared to Chen or the other guys, he still has a room to grow. Hopefully he will show his good quadruple lutz and then possibly speed. It moves beautifully, but still a little slow.
Why do you think there is no such competition among men in Russia as among women?
Lorenzo Magri: Girls are very strong in their youth, and boys grow up later. This is not a criticism, but in Russia skaters are often got injured because of the way they are trained. Ever since I started working with Dani, there has always been an athlete stronger than him, who then disappeared, quitted sports or switched to pairs. The Russian system, unfortunately, sometimes destroys these talents.
In the past two Olympics, Italy has taken fourth place in the team event. Is there a chance for the podium this time?
Lorenzo Magri: We lack a strong girl. We have no star names. There used to be Carolina Kostner and Valentina Marchei … Now we have men. In pairs, Della Monica and Guarise start to feel the age factor. We will fight, but we understand that it will be difficult.
How did it happen that you became a successful coach if you studied architecture at the university?
Lorenzo Magri: Being an athlete is like building a house, it’s the same idea … I surround myself with people who do certain things even better than me. When I moved to Milan, I started studying at the Polytechnic University, I studied industrial design. I paid for studies, working as a coach and conducting shows on ice. I transferred my skills from roller skating to ice, working for nine years with Franca Bianconi, and then I moved because it was very difficult to work in Milan. The system is very vertical, there is a head coach, you always do the same thing. I got tired.
During this time, I finished my studies, received a master’s degree in marketing management, started working in the studio and missed figure skating. I said to myself: “I will try.” I went to Bolzano, things went well, after a while I discovered that I have strong athletes. I tried to found an academy, the kind I saw abroad, and so the Young Goose Academy was born, where Daniel and the kids now train … I’ve been training him for nine years now.
By the way, your last name is Magri, which means “thin”, and the last name of Daniel Grassl sounds almost like “grasso”, which means “fat”. You, as they say, have found each other.
Lorenzo Magri: Yes! We ourselves laugh at this all the time. Especially because he is much thinner than me (smiles).