With the Winter Olympics coming to Torino in Italy in 2006, the host country is pinning its hopes for a second consecutive figure skating medal on Carolina Kostner, a 17-year-old from Bolzano. The country won its first medal in the sport in Salt Lake City in 2002, when Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio took the bronze in ice dancing.
Kostner is a good candidate for the ladies podium in Torino. In the past two seasons, she has won a bronze medal at the 2003 World Junior Figure Skating Championships, finished fourth and fifth at the 2003 and 2004 European Championships, and placed fifth at the 2004 World Championships. But Kostner skates for her own satisfaction, not medals. “I don’t think of a place when I skate,” she added. “If you expect something, you can be disappointed if you don’t get it. I skate because I love to.”
This season, Kostner has already competed in three Grand Prix events, winning a silver medal at Trophee Eric Bompard Cachemire in Paris and placing fifth at Skate Canada and seventh at the Cup of Russia, even though she was injured for much of the summer. “I couldn’t skate at all in July and couldn’t jump until three weeks before Skate Canada,” Kostner explained. “I could only do double jumps in Canada, then only triple salchow, toe loop, and loop in France. I have to do a lot of physio after each program because of the pain. The layback spin hurts my back a lot. That’s why I don’t practice it in warm-ups. I do it last in my short.”
“I never did three Grand Prix events before,” Kostner continued. “When I was small, I wanted to do a competition every week, but now it’s too much. It was cool to have three Grand Prixs but too hard to make the final after missing so much training. But I needed to compete under the new system to see if I needed to make any changes in my program for Europeans and Worlds. The new system is positive, but it’s really hard to choreograph with all the rules. And some things still need to be changed. I’ve thought a lot about it. It seems like the short program has lost a little bit of importance, but the competition is not done after the short program as it was before. It’s better to look good now than to try the harder elements, and you have to aim always to skate completely clean.” To that end, she has been working a lot on her artistry this season.
Kostner comes from a skating family. Her mother was a figure skater, while her father and brother played hockey, so she was on the ice by the time she was four. But Kostner first tried competing in skiing, like her famous cousin and godmother, Isolde Kostner, a three-time Olympian who won medals in downhill skiing and Super G. Kostner competed in downhill ski races when she was young. “At first, I went skating just for fun,” she said. “I did both skating and skiing until I was 12, then I had to decide. I liked skiing more just for fun so I chose skating.” Kostner landed her first triple salchow when she was 11, and a double axel when she was 12.
Now she is a master of the triples, especially triple-triple combinations. “The triple-triples are so easy for me,” she said. “First I tried a double toe/triple toe, just to see how is was. Then I did triple toe/triple toe. I don’t like the double axel, so I won’t try a triple axel. Kurt Browning worked with me last summer on my double axel so now it’s better.”
But Kostner doubts that she will be able to do more than a triple toe-triple toe combination for this season’s big competitions. “It’s more likely for Worlds than Europeans to have the triple-triple in the short,” she said, “but if I feel good, I will try it. I can do three different triple-triples and I’m looking forward to doing more. That’s my strength. I think I can do jumps with four turns. But for this season, my main goal is to skate without pain. I don’t want to be hurt for the Olympic Games.”
Michael Huth coaches Kostner, who trains primarily in Oberstdorf, Germany. She moved there a few years ago after the ice rink where she trained in Italy was destroyed in a landslide. “I couldn’t stay at home if I wanted to continue to skate,” she explained. “If I stayed home, I would have to quit. My father told me that if I wanted to go somewhere to skate that I had to really make the right decision about where to go. I went to Oberstdorf and really felt that it was the right place for me to go.” Kostner only trains on ice for an hour or two every day but spends another two hours daily on ballet and gymnastics to improve her strength and flexibility.
Kostner, in consultation with Huth, selected music from the soundtrack of the movie “Country” by George Winston for her short program. The long program music was selected by Kurt Browning and Megan Smith. She is using Sergei Prokofiev’s “Piano Concertos Number 1 and 3” for the long, which Browning choreographed. In the program, she portrays a forest fairy. Smith choreographed Kostner’s short program, as well as her exhibition program to Celine Dion’s “I Still Love You.” Kostner trains in Canada for a few weeks each summer at the Royal Glenora Club in Edmonton to work on her choreography. “I like to change my programs every year so I can find what’s best for me,” she said. “But I don’t always change. If something is going well, why change it.” Off ice, Kostner said she listens to “normal radio music.”
Kostner is in her last two years of secondary school in Germany. “It gets quite busy,” she said. “I try to be in school every day, because the more I lose, the more difficult it is to make it up. I do well in languages. Growing up with three languages gave me a good basis.” She speaks Italian, German, French and English. “There are lots of jobs to choose from if you know languages,” she added. “I could work in a hotel or tourism or be a hostess on a plane. I don’t have a particular job in mind, but will continue my studies at the university when I find something that interests me. I really like art and sometimes I paint and draw now for fun. But now I’m just interested in sports.”
During the season, Kostner likes to go to the cinema or meet with friends in the evening to relax. “The town is so small that there is not too much to do,” she said. “We have to be in our rooms by 10. Sometimes we bake cookies or do pasta or just hand around and do fun things in our room. One of the Swedish girls taught me how to do beads. After Worlds, we have no ice and my coach goes on holiday, so I go home to visit my parents and my friends and be lazy. Friends are very important. I love to go to the sea. I’m happy to go and see other places, like China, because of my skating. There are a lot of people that can’t go. But home is best.