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Kostner on the Top

by Barry Mittan
Barry Mittan

Italy's Carolina Kostner skates to You Are a Woman by Bonnie Taylor at the 2008 World Figure Skating Championships Gala.

At the 2008 World Figure Skating Championships, Italy’s Carolina Kostner added a silver medal to the bronze that she won in Moscow in 2005, the last time the World Championships were held in Europe. In 2010, however, she is looking forward to the chance to add a gold in her native land in the city of Torino.

Kostner has already established herself as the greatest figure skater in Italian history. Among her many firsts are the first to win a medal at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships, the first to win a silver medal at Worlds, the first to win Europeans, the first to win a Grand Prix event, and the first to medal at the ISU Grand Prix Final.

Only 21-years-old, the two-time defending European ladies champion has a chance to go for three in 2009. Defending the European title in 2008 was “a new situation, so different from last year,” Kostner said, “but I had a lot of fun and tried to concentrate. I was very, very happy with my gold medal. It was a tough week. It wasn’t easy but I always want to go forward, not backwards, and I want to win again.”

Kostner’s medal at Worlds this year came with a unique reward. “Tomas (Verner) and I had a deal at Europeans to see which one had the better result and the loser had to polish the other’s skates,” she noted. “I lost the bet and got tired of cleaning skates so I’m happy that I won the bet at Worlds. Now Tomas will have to clean my skates!”

At Worlds, Kostner was in first after the short program. “Going into my long program, I felt a lot of responsibility I had not felt before,” she recalled. “I was disappointed because my jump landings could have been better, but I had a lot of fun. I’ve always been dealing with gold or bronze, so silver is kind of nice. It’s a step up from Moscow and I’m very happy. I won in the name of my team who work many hours and helped me when I was feeling down.”

Lori Nichol choreographs Kostner’s programs. Her 2007-08 short program was to Riders on the Storm by the Doors. “I sat down with Lori and my coach and we each brought some music,” Kostner explained. “We were listening to different pieces of music and the first time I heard it, it stayed in my head because it was strange. I loved it but it wasn’t cut yet so it was hard to imagine skating to it. When it was cut, I listened to it again and got so many ideas that I decided I could change it if it didn’t work.”

In the end, Kostner was left with three choices for her short program music. “I said I’ll go to bed and choose the one that is in my head when I wake up,” the skater said. “And it was that one. The more I’ve skated to it, the more I’ve liked it. I got many compliments on the program, but in the beginning of the season, it was hard for the judges to understand it and I got lower marks.”

Kostner’s long program was to Antonin Dvorak’s Dumsky Trio. “When I heard it, I thought it was quite familiar,” she said. “Then I remembered that Joannie (Rochette) had used the piece in her short program in 2005 and I liked it. But I was unsure if I should use something that was already used. We cut it to use different pieces and the more I skated to it, the more I liked it. It gave me a lot of strength. It was sad for me at Worlds to skate it for the last time in a big competition with full content.”

For the Worlds gala and summer shows, Kostner used You Are a Woman by Bonnie Taylor. “My coach wanted me to skate to it a few years ago,” she said. “I told him I didn’t feel like a woman so I wanted to wait a few years. I reminded myself to look for it again when I felt ready for it.”

The technical content of both Kostner’s programs was quite high. Her long program included a triple flip-triple toeloop-double loop, a double Axel-triple toeloop, and a triple Salchow-double toeloop combination. She also had a double Axel, triple loop, triple flip, and triple Lutz. “I like the Lutz,” Kostner said. “It is one of my favorite jumps.”

Kostner, who is also known for her speed on the ice, can do almost any triple-triple combination. “I love technical stuff and I love to train,” she said. “I love to be able to do new stuff. Sometimes I do triple-triple-triple in my dreams. I have done three in a row in figure skating competitions, but now it’s hard to do because of the GOEs (Grades of Execution). I can do a triple loop somewhere else in the program to get a higher score.”

Although Kostner has suffered from several injuries in the past, she feels that she is stronger now. “I’m very happy about my health,” she said. “I work a lot with a physiotherapist to plan my therapy. I take a stretching class to prevent injuries, especially for my back, so I can do Biellmann spins. I don’t do too much stretching before I skate, but I do a lot afterwards to regenerate the muscles.

“You need to be healthy to train difficult jumps,” the Italian athlete noted. “Otherwise the risk of injury is high. When I’m in good shape, I’m always playing with different jumps,” she added. “Sometimes it’s not so easy, but I love to try things to see how many I can make. It’s fun and it’s my passion. I jump and jump until I fall.”

The skater hopes to keep up her level of technical difficulty over the summer. ” I’d like to move more difficult jumps to the back of the program to get the bonus,” Kostner shared, “but I feel comfortable with the balance of the program. It’s better to skate clean and do the jumps wherever I can do them the best.”

For the 2008-09 season, Kostner has been assigned Skate Canada and Cup of Russia for her Grand Prix events.

Kostner trains primarily in Oberstdorf, Germany, where she moved after her home rink in Italy was destroyed in a landslide. Michael Huth, who also trains European men’s champion Tomas Verner, coaches her. Normally, she trains for three hours a day, six days a week in the winter, and two hours a day, five days a week in the summer. “In the summer, I do much more off-ice training,” she said. “In the winter I concentrate on training on ice.”

“I have an hour of ballet every day,” Kostner added. “I also go swimming and play volleyball. I run more in the summer than in the winter. I cycle more in the winter because it’s better for my knees. I love to ski but Oberstdorf is so crowded.”

Kostner skied before she skated, taking after her cousin, Isolde Kostner, a three-time Olympic skier, by competing in the downhill. Then she took up skating, taking after her mother, Patrizia, who was a nationally ranked figure skater in the 1970s. “At first, I went skating just for fun,” Kostner said. “I did both skating and skiing until I was 12. I liked skiing more just for fun so I chose skating.”

This summer, Kostner started a new chapter in her life by enrolling at the University of Torino to study art and art history. “I postponed my studies until the summer,” she explained. “It’s a three year program and if all goes well, I’ll finish school after the Olympics.”

“I cannot always go to class because I have to skate,” she continued. “It was important to find something where I could be independent and study on my own that would not take too much time. I always wanted to study art and architecture. Later I want to go into fashion or design but I don’t have time now to draw or make clothes. You have to be at school to do that. Art history will give me a good base for that. I’m reading a lot of books on the philosophy of art. It’s very interesting but not easy to manage in the first year.”

“After the Olympics, I’ll be starting a new phase in my like, hopefully not the last one,” said Kostner. “I want to start something new but I don’t know in what direction I will go. I’m quite flexible in my intentions, but you never know what the future brings. I’m just worried that I won’t be able to do all the things I want to do.”

And there is quite a lot. The skater would like to fly helicopters. “I fly with a friend who flies a medical evacuation helicopter and I love flying,” said Kostner. “I might try diving, but I’m not a big fan of water.”

Kostner not only enjoys the competitive side of figure skating, but the fact that she gets to travel to see friends she only sees twice a year. When at home, however, she tries to go the movies every week. “I go to everything except science fiction movies. It’s really relaxing and helps me forget my worries. I also like to listen to music a lot. Usually I like rock and movie soundtracks, but I listen to classical music to calm me down. I’m no techno fan.”

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