Golden Skate

Italy’s Rizzo to train with Orser in the summer

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While Italy’s Matteo Rizzo has been improving year after year, it was this past season that the figure skater really broke through by taking the bronze medal at the 2019 ISU European Figure Skating Championships in Minsk, Belarus. It was the first European Championship medal for an Italian man in ten years since Samuel Contest took the silver in 2009. However, this was just one highlight for the 20-year-old who also became the first Italian male skater to win a medal at the ISU Grand Prix when he pocketed the bronze at 2018 NHK Trophy.

After Europeans, Rizzo then placed seventh at the 2019 ISU World Figure Skating Championships, and as a result, secured two spots for next year. This was especially significant as up-and-coming teammate and World Junior bronze medalist Daniel Grassl will help to strengthen the Italian team. Rizzo is excited about the progress the Italian men have made this season.

“It’s a really good moment for the [skating] movement in Italy, especially in Men’s,” he said.”It was a few years that there were really solid men. I think with us, it will be better and better. I’m very happy for both of us.”

Overall, Rizzo is happy with out the past season has went and is content with the results.

“The medal at the Grand Prix in Japan, then the medal at Europeans and all the results during the season were really, really good,” he reflected.”I think it is a good improvement looking forward to the Olympic Games, because you always have to look at the Olympic Games.”

The breakthrough was an important step for Rizzo who feels that it’s good to be an athlete who wants to win.

“You don’t compete to be second,” he said.”You always want to win, but you have to start somewhere and I think I have started last year with a few results and then kept going this year. It was a big step and I had to keep up. If I lost this opportunity to make results this year, I would have probably lost the opportunity to fight for a medal at the Olympics.”

The 2018 Olympian participated in the 2019 World Team Trophy, and after that, had some time off at home in Italy. At the end of May, he began his preparations for the upcoming season at his training base in Bergamo, Italy.

“I think for next year, I just have to maybe do one more quad and put two, or a maximum of three, in the free,” Rizzo offered.”I think I can compete with those guys that are World Champions and on the podium at the World Championships. That’s my goal for the next few years, and then of course I’d like to be super ready for the Olympic Games. But this season helped me a lot to go on this path and will help me next season.”

The 2018 World Junior bronze medalist, who has been landing the quad toe in competition this season, has been working on different kinds of quads—except for the Salchow—his least favorite jump. As training progresses, he will determine what other quad, if any, he can add to his repertoire.

“During the summer anything can happen,” Rizzo pointed out.”I will always continue to work on these new jumps. For me, it is quite easy to rotate all three — Lutz, flip and loop — so it depends what will happen this summer. I’ll for sure work hard to get one of these.”

During the 2018-19 season, Rizzo didn’t focus too much on other quads, realizing as many skaters do, that he had to focus on his programs and the quality of his skating.

“It takes a lot of time to work on a new jump,” Rizzo emphasized.”Sometimes Franca (Bianconi, coach) would tell me, ‘go and jump quads a little bit,’ but I didn’t have a lot of time for that. The summer is the best period to work on new elements.”

The 2018 Italian Champion usually takes some time to get used to a new jump, but once he has it, it is quite consistent. He isn’t able to pinpoint why it takes him so long to get a new jump under his belt.

“It’s always been like this, since I was novice,” Rizzo shared.”The double Axel was exactly the same. Then the triple Axel and the quad. I always struggle a little bit, but once I get it, there is no point to miss it. It can happen, of course, like at Worlds in the free. I know how to do it, there’s no point to not do it.”

“For example, now, with the quad, it was a big difference between the triple toe and the quad toe for me,” he continued.”You just have to know when to land, when you’re ready to land. For me, it’s very hard to land on one foot directly, I always land on to [in the beginning]. It’s just timing. You need to try, try and try, and after a hundred times, you can get it.”

Rizzo has chosen to skate to a Flamenco-style free skate for next season, using “Galicia Flamenca” by Gino D’Auri. He plans to work with Massimo Scali, a former ice dancer, on the choreography. He also wants to change the short program and is still deciding on selections.

For training, the 2019 European bronze medalist used to go to St. Petersburg, Russia, to work with Evgeni Rukavitsin and his group, which includes 2018 European silver medalist Dmitri Aliev. However, this summer, based on a decision with his team and the federation, he will likely go to Toronto to work with Brian Orser.

“I think that the new experience in Canada will bring me a lot of energy and motivation for the upcoming season that, in my case, will start with the Challenger series at Lombardia Trophy,” said Rizzo. However, the athlete estimates that he will spend 70 percent of the summer training at his home rink in Bergamo.

In the meantime, if an opportunity presents itself for the skater to perform in any shows during the summer, he will happily take them.

“For me it’s a little harder [to perform in shows], because you always do competitions and shows are a bit different, but I like it,” said Rizzo.”It’s fun and I enjoy performing for the people and making them laugh.”

Rizzo, who comes from a large skating family, currently studies Sports Science at the San Raffaele University in Rome. He is also a member of the penitentiary police where the athletes are guaranteed a salary.

“It’s a little bit hard with the exams and everything, because the first session of exams were during Europeans, so I skipped them,” he confessed.”But I want to finish my studies. I still need three years, maybe for me it will take five of six, but it doesn’t matter, I still want to finish it.”

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