Champion Roller Skaters Switch to the Ice

Articles, Articles by Barry Mittan

Marika Zanforlin and Federico Degli Esposti

After winning their fourth world championships in pairs roller skating and finishing second twice, Italy’s Marika Zanforlin, 25, and Federico Degli Esposti, 28, decided to switch from roller skating to figure skating. “We like the idea of trying a new sport,” Degli Esposti said. “We like challenges. Also it’s great to be part of the national team in two different sports. It’s some kind of a small record in skating.”

“Winning the first world title in roller skating was incredible, but of course the other three world titles were great parts of our career as well,” Zanforlin noted. “We didn’t have any goals left in roller skating, so we wanted to try something new.”

“We gave figure skating a try once in 2005 but then for different reasons, including the fact we wanted to win another world title in roller skating, we didn’t continue,” Degli Esposti stated. “We tried it again, determined to go for it, in June 2007. We wanted to give it a try to qualify for the Olympic games, since we didn’t have this chance in roller skating as it’s not an Olympic sport.”

Except for getting the feel of the blades, the skaters took to the ice with little difficulty. “They had warned us it was going to be the most difficult thing to adjust to,” Degli Esposti stated. “I think the elements are easier to execute on the ice. We just lack the confidence with the blades.”

The couple finished second in senior pairs at Italian Nationals, then placed tenth at the 2008 European Championships in Zagreb, Croatia in their first international competition. They landed a throw triple loop in the short and long and a throw triple salchow in the long. They also completed a side-by-side double flip in the short as well as side-by-side double toe loops and double flip-double toe loop combinations in the long

As roller skaters they were renowned for their throws and their spectacular lifts with a lot of changes of position. Their long programs included a quad lutz twist along with 3 throw jumps: triple loop, triple salchow and double axel.

“For this season, our goal is to improve our basic skating and try to get better results than last season,” Degli Esposti said. The couple hopes to qualify for the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.

Zanforlin started roller-skating when she was four. “My older brother, who wanted to play roller hockey ended up, by accident, in the artistic roller skating club,” she related, so she started there too. Degli Esposti started roller-skating when he was seven. “My older brother was skating and I went with him,” he said. “At first I didn’t like to skate and at times I’d skip training to go and play soccer or basketball with my friends.”

The couple started competing together in 1996 and continued for 12 years. “Federico’s coach used to come and coach in my hometown, Rovigo,” Zanforlin remembered. “At that time I was growing up and my partner was getting too small for me. Federico had the same problem with his partner so his coach decided to make us try together.”

“We had good results from the very beginning,” Degli Esposti added. “The major problem was to meet and train cause we live in different cities. So until we got our driving licenses, our parents used to drive us all the way to train. One day I was going to Rovigo, the next day Marika was coming to Bologna.”

The skaters are still coached by Maria Rita Zenobi and Tiziana Gasparetto, who have been their coaches since they began roller-skating. Cristina Mauri and Roberto Pelizzola coach the team on the ice, but finding ice time is difficult. “We both have a job and no ice rink in our hometowns,” Degli Esposti explained. “Last winter, we trained weekends in Milano, and sometimes during the week in Ferrara, which is the closest town with an ice rink but open only in winter. For the summer it will depend how many hours we can get from the rinks left open and again it has to work with our job schedules. Economically it is very tough.”

On average, the skaters estimated that they were able to skate about 18 hours a week on ice as they learned their new sport. Because they did jumps and lifts in roller-skating, they did not have to do too much off ice work on those elements. The skaters both do some off ice gym work, while Degli Esposti also runs and cycles.

Gabriele Quirini choreographed the couple’s programs for their premiere season in 2007-08. They adapted the roller skating programs that they used to win the 2005 and 2006 Worlds. The short program to Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” was their 2006 roller skating long program, while the long program to “Death and The Maiden” by Franz Schubert was their 2005 long program.

“We always pick the music together with our coaches and choreographers,” Zanforlin stated. “We like to try any kind of music.” “Even in roller skating we tried to change music style every year,” Degli Esposti said. “The audience likes athletes always trying different things.”

Off ice, Zanforlin listens to radio music, while Degli Esposti listens to different kind of music, but prefers Italian music. Both skaters like to relax with friends. Zanforlin enjoys shopping, while Degli Esposti likes to do any kind of sports.

Zanforlin works as a secretary, while Degli Esposti works for the Italian rail system and coaches roller-skating. Zanforlin also hopes to coach roller-skating in the future.

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