The 2006 Junior Worlds will be the last chance for Anna Cappellini to medal at the event. She was fifth in 2004 with Matteo Zanni and the couple had a good chance at a medal last season after finishing third at the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final, but Zanni became ill and they had to withdraw after the original dance. Now Cappellini is back with a new partner, Luca Lanotte, and one final chance in Slovenia. After winning the Italian junior title, the couple set a goal of making the podium at Junior Worlds in Slovenia.
The new team was the surprise of the dance event at the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final when they finished third, beating all four Russian teams. The couple has only been skating together for six months and had not even competed at Italian Nationals. And they accomplished the feat even though Lanotte was suffering from a bruised sternum which had prevented him from training the week prior to the event.”
“I’m usually relaxed, but I was scared before we started,” Cappellini said. “We hadn’t been able to practice the lifts in the original dance and I didn’t know how much pain there was for Luca. There’s a lot of stress before competitions but it was even more difficult for us than for an established team because we haven’t known each other so long. I thought it had to be a miracle if we did the whole competition so we were very surprised and happy with the results.”
Although their results have been good, Cappellini was outspoken in describing the new system. “The Code of Points helps but not that much,” she said. “It’s much more precise so when you do the right things, you can get good marks. But the judges can still nail you on the second mark, just like before. What’s really horrible is that all the programs are starting to look the same. It’s sad how many have exactly the same lifts because you have to do them to get higher points.”
“It’s killing the dancing feeling,” Cappellini continued. “All the dances look the same. It was done for a good purpose but the dance is not beautiful to see anymore. If you do all of the elements, there’s about 40 seconds left to dance. Maybe there should be fewer required elements to make the dances more enjoyable even if they’re not as precise. I feel sorry for some of the older skaters who have to try to do the Biellmann position when they never had to do it before. I don’t have a problem because when I was a singles skater I could do a Biellmann on both legs, but a lot of girls are having shoulder and back injuries from trying to do them. And all the girls have cuts on their hands.”
Cappellini started skating when she was three. “There was an ice rink close to my house and my parents took me every Sunday,” she said. “My sister also used to do synchro skating. It was a hobby for her. I used to be a singles skater but then I met Paola at a summer camp and she told me I would be great in ice dancing. I was very artistic but not a very good jumper because I broke my leg in 1999 and was off the ice for six months.” She was 12 years old when she switched to dance.
Before this season, Cappellini skated with Matteo Zanni for five years, finishing as high as fifth at Junior Worlds in 2004. They took the bronze medal at the 2004-05 Junior Grand Prix Final after winning the Junior Grand Prixs in Budapest and Belgrade in 2004and won the Italian junior dance title in 2004 and 2005. But then disaster struck the team. Zanni’s father was severely injured in a car accident in January 2005, and then the team had to withdraw after the original dance at Junior Worlds after Zanni came down with food poisoning. That was their final competition as his father’s injuries forced Zanni’s retirement from the sport.
Lanotte began skating when he was seven and began in ice dancing when he was ten. “I started because I was jealous of my sister who is eight years older,” he said. “She was on a synchro team. I was always competing in ice dancing, not in singles skating because my sister told me that ice dancing was better. It’s not just skating but it’s very similar to ballroom dancing and I like to dance a lot.” Lanotte first competed with Arianna Jovino, then reached fourth at Italian Nationals in juniors with Camilla Spelta and later with Camilla Pistorello, with whom he also finished ninth at Junior Worlds in 2005.
Cappellini and Lanotte began skating together on May 2, 2005. “The federation put us together,” Cappellini said. “They thought we were the two best junior ice dancers and could build a team to compete at the higher levels. Right now we’re just nobodies, but our coach says we can be a good skating couple if we can make the best out of each other. Right now we are just working on our base. We really just want to skate as well as we can and get the feeling of unison that the best couples need. That takes a couple of years and then maybe we can do excellent things. We both have very strong characters and we argue much more than when I was with Matteo. But I think we can skate together for a long time if we can stand each other.”
The couple finished second in their first event, Skate Slovakia in Bratislava, and took another silver at the Sofia Cup in Bulgaria to advance to the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final. “Competing in Bratislava was really weird, especially for me since I had been competing with Matteo for five years and we knew each other so well,” Cappellini said. “It wasn’t as much of a change for me,” Lanotte countered, “because I had three partners in three years.”
“We saw the predictions in advance that we would be fourth or fifth,” Cappellini continued. “We didn’t know how the judges would react to us. And then after the compulsory dance, we were first. It helped that we have always been in the same group so our technique is similar. But we have to build up our unison because we didn’t know each other so well. And we all have different ways to handle tension before competitions. Usually, I skate better if I’m angry.” “I’m very aggressive before the start,” Lanotte stated. “I got that from Camilla Spelta. She would always tell me, ‘Let’s go and give them hell.’ Anna’s more relaxed and quiet.”
Roberto Pelizzola, Paolo Mezzadri and Barbara Riboldi coach the dancers, who train in Milan. They train on ice for three or four hours a day, six days a week with another two to three hours in ballet, ballroom and other off ice classes. “I love ballet. It’s what I do best,” Said Cappellini, who started classes when she was eight.
Among their training partners are Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali, the Italian senior dance champions. “We spend a lot of time with them,” Cappellini said. “They are very good people. We have very different styles but they are models for how they train. They work so hard.”
The couple employed a number of choreographers for this season’s dances, including Giovanni and Eleonora Scandiffio and Stefano Ubaldi, who work with them in the ballroom, Corrado Giordani, their ballet teacher, and Ludmilla Vlasova, who adapts the programs to the ice and cleans them up. “It took a long time to build the programs this year because we were trying to get in unison,” Cappellini noted.
For the original dance, they are doing a rhumba to “Historia de un Amor” and a samba to “Chupacapra”. “I picked the music for the rhumba,” Cappellini said. “I had wanted to skate to it with Matteo. Giovanni and Eleonora brought us the music for the samba. We practiced the samba with a lot of different music and we loved it.” Luca’s a very good Latin dancer,” Cappellini said. “I was terrible but we took Latin lessons and he was very patient in teaching me.”
Their free dance is skated to James Brown’s “This is a Man’s World” and Deep Purple’s “Wring That Neck”. “We heard the James Brown music from Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski’s original dance of 2004,” Cappellini stated. “Our coach, Roberto, had the music from Deep Purple and thought it would be food for us. For our gala program, we are using The Scorpions ‘Still Loving You’. Luca’s mother loves that music. It was also the free dance music for Lang and Tchernyshev’s free dance in 2003. I loved that program.”
She loves to watch videos of older ice dancers and has a large collection of tapes from prior years. “I collect them from other people who used to be skaters,” she said. “I even have a tape of Torvill and Dean falling. I thought they never fell. I also watch a lot of ballets because they inspire me.”
Cappellini awakes at 4 AM six days a week to study, then commutes from her home in Como to skate before returning home and spending five hours at school. “I have a very busy life,” she said. “On Sunday, I like to sleep. I also like to read all kinds of books. I read lots of love stories. I usually just spend my free time with my family and friends.” As for the gifts she receives from skating, she said, “I keep some of the stuffed toys and give some to the little girls who like skating. I give all the flowers to my mother. I’m always carrying flowers on the plane.”
Lanotte loves computers and downloads lots of videos and information about figure skating, including all the latest gossip. “He knows everything a few minutes after it happens,” Cappellini said. Lanotte also likes to go to the disco with friends and listens to rhythm and blues and other popular music. Cappellini listens mainly to Latin music. “I’m not good at dancing to it, but I like to listen to it,” she said.
Cappellini, 18, is in her final year of studies in math and science at the lyceum, the Italian equivalent of high school. “I have been a good student but I want to get a good grade on my final tests in June,” she said. “It’s hard to be a good skater and a good student. After Junior Worlds, I will focus on school until I pass my tests. Then I will go to the university. I am thinking of physiotherapy but a second option is foreign languages.” In addition to Italian, Cappellini is fluent in English and has studied French and Latin.
Lanotte, 20, is studying economics at a university in Milan. “I’m in my second year,” he said. “I haven’t decided for sure what I want to do but economics prepares you for a lot of different jobs.”
How long the couple will skate depends on their results over the next few years. “I’d like to skate for a very long time,” Cappellini said, “Probably into my thirties.” Next year, they will compete in seniors.