Italy’s Zelenka Aims for Olympics

Articles, Articles by Barry Mittan

Karel Zelenka

Italy’s representative in men’s figure skating at the 2006 Olympic Games in Torino should be Karel Zelenka, who was born in Louny in the Czech Republic, but moved to Milan, Italy, with his parents when he was only six years old. “I’m still waiting for my Italian passport because it takes over ten years,” he said, “but I have been in Italy more than ten years, much longer than I lived in the Czech Republic.”

The 22-year old has won the Italian Nationals for the last three years after finishing second the three previous years. He has placed as high as eighth at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in 2001, 16th at Europeans in 2004, and 20th at Worlds in 2005. This season, he finished sixth at the Golden Spin of Zagreb, tenth at Skate Canada and 19th at Europeans.

Zelenka began skating when he was five. “My father was a skater,” Zelenka said. “He finished third at Czech Nationals before he became a coach. I saw my father teaching skaters and I wanted to try it too.” Once he started, Zelenka didn’t want to give up the sport. He landed his first triple salchow at the age of 13 and within two weeks had landed a clean triple toe loop. He is using a triple flip-triple toe loop combination this year and has been working on three jump combinations. “I’ve tried adding a double or triple loop after the triple flip-triple toe combination,” he explained.

“I’ve tried some quads and was very close to landing a quad toe loop,” Zelenka said. “I’ve landed a quad salchow a few times. It was in good shape at the end of last season, but for now I’m concentrating on my triple axel because it’s not so consistent. After Worlds, I will work again on quad jumps.”

His father, Karel Zelenka Senior, still coaches him although he also works sometimes with Mirco Botta. He normally trains in Milan, Italy, but sometimes trains in the summer in Oberstdorf, Germany. He usually skates for four hours a day, five days a week, plus an hour or two on Saturdays. He does another one to two hours of off ice training each day.

Both of Zelenka’s programs are new this season, “I usually change only one,” he said, “but this is an important year for me. I had the old long program for two years and I didn’t feel good with last year’s short program. I needed a change.” His choreographer, Andrea Gilardi, found the music for his new short program. He is skating to Sergei Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” and Vanessa Mae’s “Art of War”. “I like to skate sometimes to classical music,” Zelenka noted, “but it depends on how I feel the music. Sometimes I like to skate to completely different styles of music.”

For the long program, Zelenka is skating to music from the soundtrack of the movie, “Alexander”, by Vangelis. “I saw the movie and it was my favorite,” he said. “So I wanted to skate to that music.” He changes styles in his gala program, skating to music from Safri Duo. Off ice, he listens to pop, rock, and dance music.

Off ice, He said, “I like being with my friends and just walking around. I also like to drive cars. I play some video games, but I use the computer mainly for music and chatting on the Internet. I like playing soccer but it’s dangerous for injuries so I don’t play anymore. I’ve already had injuries to my back, my groin, my knee, almost everything so I have to be careful. Zelenka also enjoys watching movies, especially action movies and comedies. For holidays, he goes to the sea for swimming and sunbathing. “The sun gives me energy,” he said. “I go every year and it helps me with my mind and to rest from training.” He also plays tennis.

“I’m only beginning my career,” he said. “I hope to continue for many years past this Olympics. I like to do galas and hope to have a long career skating in some shows. I don’t know about any future job yet, but I’ve helped teach children how to skate with my father.” Zelenka has finished high school but has not started university.

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