Nicole Della Monica: “I’m completely satisfied with my path. Four Olympics is an incredible achievement. Yes, I didn’t win any medals, but as an athlete, I can be proud of myself.”
Translation of the interview with former Italian pair skater Nicole Della Monica.
original source: RSport dd. 29th January 2024 by Svetlana Bonopartova
Here’s a translation of the interview with former Italian pair skater Nicole Della Monica made for Russian media.
Q: What do you think about the level of the European Championships now?
Nicole Della Monica: I can honestly say that last year the level was really very low. Many good pairs took a break after the Olympic Games, so the season turned out to be poor. But this year the level has risen. Pairs from Georgia, Germany, and Hungary showed very good skating.
Q: Russian athletes cannot currently compete on the international stage. Have competitions lost their appeal, or, on the contrary, has it become more interesting to watch them because there is competition between different countries?
Nicole Della Monica: Russian athletes provided good competition. Perhaps not in all disciplines. For example, in men’s, Russians sometimes took first place, sometimes not. So in this discipline and in ice dance, the situation has not changed much: representatives of different countries have always had the opportunity to get on the podium.
Q: What about pairs?
Nicole Della Monica: Every time we had to show our maximum to take fourth place. Russians were always ahead. You knew in advance that surpassing one of these pairs was very difficult, if not impossible. Now the competitions have become more interesting, but, of course, I am very sorry that Russian athletes found themselves in this situation because many of them were my friends.
Q: Just recently, Matteo Guarise and Lucrezia Beccari won the European Championships. What emotions did you experience at that moment?
Nicole Della Monica: Actually, I was very happy. I feel proud of their pair. They did incredibly hard work in the summer and showed good results at every competition this season. Yes, there were mistakes, but in any case, Matteo and Lucrezia continued to show a high level of skill. The European Championships was a good culmination of this work.
Q: Matteo switched from roller skating to figure skating only at 22. By that time, you had already participated in the Olympics and even managed to end your career. Were you not afraid to start over with a non-professional?
Nicole Della Monica: It was very difficult. I really ended my career after participating in my first Olympic Games and did not want to continue because I had achieved my main goal. I couldn’t come up with any more motivation for myself. Perhaps it was because of my partner; I felt that we had certain limitations. At the very least, we did not match in terms of anthropometric data; the height difference was too small. So I decided to finish with figure skating. But a year later, Matteo came to me and suggested resuming training. At that moment, there were many thoughts in my head: “I missed a year, I haven’t trained so much. Can I still jump at all?” In general, there were many doubts. But step by step, everything started to work out.
Q: ISU raised the age minimum to prevent injuries among figure skaters. Is it the right decision?
Nicole Della Monica: When we are young, we don’t really care much about our bodies, we can skip warm-up and cool-down. But the older you get, the more you realize that you should help your body. Thanks to this, you will not only recover better but also become stronger. So, perhaps, it’s the right decision to prevent athletes’ bodies from breaking down prematurely.
Q: Skaters are increasingly attempting ultra-c elements. Are they necessary or is the risk not worth it?
Nicole Della Monica: I don’t know because I’ve never tried to perform them myself and I don’t realize all the power it takes. But I’ve seen many skaters who jumped them so easily. It’s a real revolution. I can’t say it’s excessively dangerous. Perhaps, only for a specific body structure, because to jump them, you must be very light and have strong rotation. Although for girls, the situation is completely different. Sooner or later, there comes a period when a girl turns into a woman and cannot jump as before. Then these little strong girls are upset that at the age of 16-17 they can’t perform elements that were easy for them. Perhaps raising the age will prevent such problems.
Q: You said you’ve never tried quadruple jumps or throws yourself. Why?
Nicole Della Monica: There were only a few people who tried such elements at my age. Aliona Savchenko tried to perform a throw triple axel, Sui Wenjing and Han Cong tried a quadruple twist. But there were still few attempts. It was just a different time.
Q: What is closer to you, Carolina Kostner’s artistic skating or Alexandra Trusova’s powerful style?
Nicole Della Monica: It’s such different skating! Everyone talked about Trusova: “Wow”. She performed the most difficult jumps so easily. But as for Carolina, every time she stepped on the ice, your breath caught. In the last year, Carolina was so experienced, expressive, and the emotions we felt when she skated were truly indescribable.
Q: Did you have the same feelings from watching Russian girls skate?
Nicole Della Monica: When Medvedeva just entered the senior level, she was a queen to me. She never made mistakes and was always at the top. Her skating was mesmerizing. Perhaps, she was the one I liked the most.
Q: What about the last Olympics?
Nicole Della Monica: It’s a tough question. Trusova, of course, had phenomenal jump content, but I’m not sure she was my favorite. There were three Russians at the Olympics, and they were all so different. I sometimes hear that new strong girls are emerging in Russia, but so far, I haven’t been able to see their skating.
Q: If we continue talking about the Olympics in Beijing, that’s where the doping scandal involving Kamila Valieva happened. There was a lot said about it from the Americans. How did the Italian team react to this situation?
Nicole Della Monica: It didn’t affect us as much, so there wasn’t such heated discussion. I think the main issue concerns the American and Japanese teams because they still haven’t received their medals. But I’m very sorry about the situation that unfolded because it’s very difficult to go through something like that. It’s sad to see so much attention from journalists and the public focused on such a young athlete. Think about it, she was only 15 years old. It’s very sad.
Q: You admitted that you didn’t aim for the gold medal. So what was your motivation to pursue sports so vigorously? In Russia, if you didn’t take first place, you lost.
Nicole Della Monica: I know that in Russia athletes approach competitions with that mindset. It’s just a different type of thinking. We’re happy just to compete because in any case, we’re making history for Italy in pair skating. Any result is already historical. I was only fifth at the World Championships, but it was for the first time for Italy. We have plenty of motivation to try to achieve more.
Q: You trained in Russia. What do you remember most?
Nicole Della Monica: The cold (laughs). We trained for a year in St. Petersburg before the Sochi Olympics. Then we returned to Italy because it was quite difficult for us in Russia. We were on our own, didn’t know the language to communicate freely. Somewhere the next season, we started collaborating with Nina Mozer’s group. They came to Italy for training camps in the summer, so we often saw each other. I think that was the best period for us because we trained with athletes of a very high level.
Q: How do training in Russia differ from training in Italy?
Nicole Della Monica: Literally everything is different. After our training in Russia, we tried to bring something into the Italian system. In Russia, they work a lot on the smallest details, on the quality of elements. That’s what we understood in Russia and what we tried to change in our system. We were told that it’s better to have easier program but with high-quality elements and to skate it without mistakes. This will allow you to score more points.
Q: In Italy, is a lot of time devoted to training?
Nicole Della Monica: In Russia, it’s definitely much more time devoted to this. You have more opportunities, more rinks, a lot of ice. It’s very difficult in Italy. For example, children can only find time for training after school. At the same time, there shouldn’t be too many people on the ice. So, there are certain difficulties with this.
Q: What do you remember about Nina Mozer?
Nicole Della Monica: She is very kind. Always defends her athletes. You could always approach her and discuss your problems, say what you didn’t like. She tried to communicate with us on an equal footing as much as possible.
Q: Were you able to make friends in Russia?
Nicole Della Monica: During our training, we had the opportunity to meet Maxim Trankov and Ksenia Stolbova. It was a good time. When Mozer’s group came to Italy, we went to the lake. I can’t say it was parties, everyone was focused on training, but we had fun. In Moscow, Maxim invited us to his place. It was nice. Actually, the time when we lived in Moscow and St. Petersburg was very different.
Q: How so?
Nicole Della Monica: In St. Petersburg, we didn’t have friends. But in Moscow, we had communication with these guys. Still, St. Petersburg is closer to me. Moscow is a good city, but St. Petersburg is just beautiful. Very beautiful. I remember a funny incident. Summer brought the white nights. And we thought, “What’s this? Why is the sun still shining?” It was very difficult for us.
Q: Do you still communicate with anyone from Russia now?
Nicole Della Monica: After I finished my career, communication became much less. We can congratulate each other on holidays, but we don’t communicate as much as before.
Q: There is a stereotype that Russians are very gloomy. Do you agree with that?
Nicole Della Monica: I think so. We say that Russians are cold people.
Q: What dish do you remember the most?
Nicole Della Monica: I really liked borscht. But honestly, I didn’t really like the meat. In Italy, we cook steaks completely differently. But I definitely liked borscht.
Q: Is Eteri Tutberidze known in Italy?
Nicole Della Monica: I think she is known worldwide. She always seemed to me very strict, a strong woman. I never spoke to her because she seems like, “I’m here, but there’s a wall around me, so don’t bother talking to me.” But I think that’s her strength.
Q: Tutberidze is now trying herself as a pair coach. What do you think about her debut with Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov?
Nicole Della Monica: Honestly, I know her work with girls, but I don’t know much about her work with pairs. I think Evgenia and Vladimir tried to do everything they could at the Olympics and tried to change their habits to improve. When you try to do this in a limited time, it’s difficult to change anything drastically. But changes always work well at the beginning when everyone is enthusiastic. Then reality sets in. Only after some time can you understand if it worked. But Evgenia and Vladimir definitely showed a high result.
Q: Russian figure skater Maria Talalaikina tried to join the Italian national team. How do you feel about having athletes from outside Italy in the team?
Nicole Della Monica: If they have the opportunity, why not? Unfortunately, Italian girls are not as strong. This year, the winner of the national championship took sixth place at the European Championships. That’s not so bad. But after Carolina Kostner, we didn’t have so many good skaters in women’s single skating. I know that our federation wants to create a strong team for the Olympics. For me, it doesn’t matter where the athlete is from. For example, Ivan Righini is from Russia, but he was one of us. If we can create a united, friendly team that supports each other, we’re all for it.
Q: Maria also mentioned that she had to work part-time to pay for training. Does the Italian federation help its athletes in any way?
Nicole Della Monica: The federation gives money only to those who participate in the European and World Championships. They allocate money monthly, but it’s not enough. I know that the federation in Russia allocates more money to athletes, so when Russian figure skaters come to Italy to compete for our country, they face a different reality. It’s not so easy; they have to work at night. Italian athletes, on the other hand, have a slightly different situation. Every figure skater is part of the police sports department, and we receive a salary every month.
Q: So you never had to work part-time?
Nicole Della Monica: When we are active athletes, we have the opportunity to focus exclusively on sports. Such a system allows us to concentrate on results, so personally, I never had to look for additional work.
Q: Later, Maria decided to return, and at the Russian Championship, Tatiana Tarasova made a remark to her about her weight, saying that before going out in public, a weigh-in should be conducted. Do they monitor the weight of athletes in Italy?
Nicole Della Monica: Yes, but not as closely. I still had to maintain a certain shape so that my partner could easily throw me or do lifts. So I watched my weight. Maybe I didn’t weigh myself every day, but there was still control. The coach may also suggest that maybe a little weight should be dropped, but always in a gentle manner.
Q: What if Tatiana Anatolievna’s phrase had been said to an Italian athlete?
Nicole Della Monica: That would not have been good! Now the situation has become much stricter in many ways. A coach cannot touch an athlete, say bad words, because the child can tell their parents about it, and the coach will simply be sued. Yes, perhaps coaches sometimes go too far and say too harsh words, but if you want to instill discipline, you must have a strict coach. Moreover, often if the coach doesn’t show the technique on you, the athlete may not understand what exactly needs to be done. How is it possible to work in such a format? Especially with children. This is wrong.
Q: What is your job now?
Nicole Della Monica: We can continue to work in the police after ending our careers if we want to. No one is going to fire you from there, so the huge advantage is that you immediately have a job. Now I work in the police, but of course, I don’t have to patrol the streets. I work in the sports department.
Q: Looking back, are you satisfied with your career?
Nicole Della Monica: Of course, you can always do better. But still, I will say that I am completely satisfied with my path. Four Olympics is an incredible achievement. Yes, I didn’t win any medals, but as an athlete, I am happy. I can be proud of myself.
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