by Ashli Meynert | Photo by Robin Ritoss
This week, Swiss ice dance champions Ramona Elsener & Florian Roost will continue to chase their Olympic dream. It is one more step in a journey that began almost a decade ago. They will skate at Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, where five countries will earn the last set of spots to send a dance team to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. If Elsener & Roost earn a spot, they will become only the second Swiss ice dance team to qualify for the Olympics.
The International Skating Union’s new minimum technical score requirements were tough last year, particularly in ice dance. Elsener & Roost just missed the 29-point technical minimum for the short dance and missed the 2013 World Championships, but they refused to let the disappointment discourage them as they approached the 2014 Olympic season. Instead, they spent three months at the Detroit Skating Club, working with Pasquale Camerlengo, Anjelika Krylova, and the rest of their team. They typically train in Switzerland with Corniela Diener and Alexei Pospelov, their coaches since they began their partnership.
The new environment gave them the chance to compete very early this season. They traveled with most of the DSC team to the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships, where they finished seventh in their short dance group and won the bronze medal in their free dance group. Last month, they flew to Australia with summer training mates and fellow Olympic hopefuls Danielle O’Brien & Gregory Merriman to compete at Skate DownUnder. They won the silver medal there, with a strong overall score of 134.64 points, making a statement that they are on track to compete at their best at Nebelhorn.
The journey to this moment started when they were both four years old. Roost was inspired by his grandparents, while Elsener watched her sister compete with a Swiss synchronized skating team.
“I got skates from my grandparents,” Roost said. “They used to dance ballroom and in the winter, they went to the rink for ice dancing. So my mum brought me to the skating classes.”
Both skaters competed in the singles disciplines as children, but the decision to focus on ice dance was an easy choice. Elsener’s coach, Mark Pepperday, kept advising her to try ice dance throughout her time as a singles skater. Roost knew ice dancing well, as he practiced on the ice with Eliane and Daniel Hugentobler, the only Swiss ice dancing Olympians thus far.
“It wasn’t a difficult decision for me,” Roost said, “because I wasn’t that good in single skating.”
Elsener & Roost met each other in an online chat room when they were 12 and 15 years old, respectively. It was a meeting that ended up turning into a long-lasting friendship and strong partnership. After teaming up in 2005, they won the Swiss novice national title in 2006, beginning a streak of national titles that they still hold. They won the junior title in 2007, 2008, and 2009, and have held the senior title since 2010. They have never looked back in their quest to represent their country with pride.
The duo has plenty of international experience, and even competed simultaneously at both the junior and senior levels in the 2010-11 season. They have skated five times at World Junior Championships, four times at the European Championships, and twice at the World Championships. Last year, they won their first senior international medal, a bronze at Ice Challenge in Graz, Austria.
Their longevity and success as a team can be attributed to their solid partnership. They can counter each other’s personalities to make the relationship work smoothly, and they complement each other’s strengths.
“Florian is sometimes nervous during a competition,” Elsener said. “With my calmness, I try to calm him down so that we can give our best performance.”
“Ramona’s strength is that she knows what she wants, and she’s doing everything to reach it,” Roost said. “But I’d say that she’s not always patient. If something isn’t working the first time, she gets really upset with herself.”
The partners are like siblings and best friends at the same time, and they are not afraid to be perfectly honest regarding the other’s personality.
“He is funny, cheerful, sometimes bitchy, confident, and lazy,” Elsener said about her partner.
“She’s a diva,” Roost countered. “She’s also a comedian, pigheaded, ambitious, and very hard on herself.”
Outside of skating, Roost studies journalism part-time at the university level, and Elsener has an apprenticeship as a clerk. Their main goal, however, is to represent their country at the 2014 Olympics.
“The Olympics is the dream of every athlete,” Roost said. “We’d be so excited to compete at the Olympics. This dream could become true when we qualify. It would be a good experience for our future, on and off the ice. We think it would be great honor to represent Switzerland at the Olympics.”