The Czech Republic’s Tomas Verner, 19, is poised to become a contender for the podium at coming international events. He started the season by winning bronze medals at both the Otto Nepela Memorial in Bratislava, Slovakia and the Nebelhorn Trophy in Obertsdorf, Germany. Then in the most important competition of his career, Verner took home gold at the Karl Schaefer Memorial in Vienna to qualify for the Olympic Games in Torino in 2006.
“I missed Salt Lake City and I didn’t want to miss out again,” he said. “You don’t know how long you can be a skater at the top levels. Last year, I twisted my ankle and tore part of the muscle from the bone. It took a long time to heal and I didn’t have good results. This season, I hope to skate well at Europeans and Worlds and get some Grand Prix assignments for next year.”
The three-time Czech champion previously competed at two Junior Grand Prix Finals, finishing sixth in 2004 and seventh in 2003. His best finish at the European Championships was tenth in 2004, the same year he placed 14th at Junior Worlds and 19th at Worlds.
Verner began skating when he was six years old. “I started because of one of the most beautiful girls,” he remembered. “She was a skater and I had my first crush on her. Our mothers were good friends so I went to the ice rink to learn to skate along with her. Within two years she was out of skating, but I continued. My parents didn’t want me to try hockey because they were afraid it would be too hard for me, but now they’ve changed their minds. The hockey players all have protectors, but when skaters jump and fall, it hurts.” Verner’s older brother, Miroslav, also skated in junior pairs, but has now retired.
The boyish charmer landed his first double axel and triple salchow within a few days of each other when he was twelve. He has progressed rapidly since then, landing his first quadruple jump, a toe loop, when he was sixteen. “It was at the Worlds in Washington in 2002,” he recalled. “I came to practice right after my flight and tried the quad toe. It was the first time I landed one. Then I saw Michael Weiss do the quad lutz in Nagano so I tried to do that too, but it’s not so easy. I think I will stay with the quad toe loop.”
“I would like to have the quad in my programs, especially with a double toe or triple toe combination to get more points,” he continued. “But this year I had problems with my triple axel so I didn’t have enough time to train the quad. I will use a triple axel-triple toe and maybe triple flip-triple toe and some triple-double-double combinations. I have a second triple axel in the last half of my program to gain some points.”
Verner trains primarily in Prague with Vlasta Koprikova, who has coached him the last six years. He usually trains for about four hours a day, six days a week. He also trains in Obertsdorf, Germany for a month in the summer, working with Michael Huth. Rostislav Sinitsyn choreographs Verner’s programs. “He is a genius,” Verner said. “He picks all of my music, except for the gala. I pick my own music for that. I like to skate to music that says something to people, something that lets you express your feelings, not just any music.”
This season, Verner is using the blues for his short program, the same as last season. His free program music, “Lessiem, Fundamentum” by Dropzone is new for this year. “We have a new name for this music,” Verner said. “We call it Fight for Prague in the 15th Century.” For his exhibition program, Verner starts with Rhapsody in Blue and then switches to rock music. Off ice, he listens to popular music. “I don’t have any favorites,” he said, “but I don’t like hip hop. But who knows? Maybe I’ll hear a hip hop song I like and skate to it.”
To relax, Verner likes to go bowling with his friends in Prague or go cycling. He also enjoys beach volleyball, tennis and squash. Verner used to do karate, play soccer, and participate in track and field including the high jump, long jump, and sprints. He collects skating pins, but hopes to have a collection of medals soon. He only watches movies occasionally, just comedies and thrillers.
Most of his time outside skating is spent studying. Verner is in his first year studying psychology at a university in Prague. “I want to know what happens in my brain so I can keep my concentration and reach the highest level in skating,” he explained. “Then I want to be a psychologist to help other skaters.”
For additional information, see Verner’s website at www.tomasverner.comVerner is a Winner