by Daphne Backman | Photos by Robin Ritoss
Since teaming up in 2013, Finland’s Cecelia Torn & Jussiville Partanen have been working to climb up the ranks of the international stage. 2015-16 has been a breakthrough season, bringing the team it’s first international medals, including gold at Cup of Nice, as well as their first national title. Just prior to the European Championships, Torn & Partanen took some time to answer some questions for IDC.
IDC: Tell us about your individual skating stories.
Torn: I first skated when I was 4 when my mom took me to a learn to skate lesson. However, that ended quickly when I fell for the first time. I threw a tantrum and said I’m not skating anymore. Luckily, a year later, my mom took me back and I ended up loving it.
Partanen: I started skating at the age of 10, almost 11. I used to always sit at the ice rink because my sister skated too, and one day her coach came to me and said she was bored of looking at me sitting there and that I should get on the ice too! And after getting on the ice with some old hockey skates I fell in love with it
IDC: What drew each of you to ice dance?
Torn: After I had to take a year off from singles because of a knee surgery, I had to rethink my skating future. However, one day I received a message from Jussiville asking if I wanted to try ice dance and I thought I’d give it a try. In ice dance, I love the chemistry between the couple and story they convey with their skating.
Partanen: For me, a big part of it was not learning all the harder triple jumps. I was interested in trying out dance already when I was younger but still decided I wanted to continue with singles. Then later I decided I didn’t want to keep on going with the jumps and didn’t want to throw away all the years spent with skating so I turned to ice dance. I always liked doing steps and such even as a single skater so ice dance was kind of a clear choice.
IDC: What was it like for you to return to Finland after living and training in Canada (Jussiville)?
Partanen: Training in Canada with Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe was really a growing experience and an absolute pleasure. They really taught me all the basics, since I didn’t really know anything about ice dance, and I don’t think I’d have ever gotten even this far without them. They really taught me about how hard I have to train and how much effort I have to put into every training.
Of course returning to Finland was a bit scary at first, and sad also since I had to leave behind all the friends I’d made during the three years in Canada. Furthermore the Finnish skating family, the Papp family, I lived with really felt like another family to me. But all in all things turned out really well this way, the work we have been able to do Maurizio and everything he has taught us has really brought us further.
IDC: How did you become partners?
Partanen: After the Junior Worlds of 2013 in Milan, my partner decided not to continue skating anymore. After a sit down with my coaches, Aaron Lowe and Megan Wing, we decided I should try to find a Finnish partner. Luckily, Maurizio Margaglio had started coaching in Helsinki by that time, so the Finnish skating family I was living with in Canada, told me I should contact Cecilia whom they were friends with. I contacted Cessi on Facebook and she said she would be interested in doing a tryout. I was quite certain straight away after one hour of skating with her that I should continue skating with her.
IDC: How difficult was your transition from singles to ice dance (Cecilia)?
Torn: It was difficult, it suddenly felt like I couldn’t skate at all! But with JV – Jussiville- it was really easy to skate already from the first tryout onwards, it felt really, really natural. And If I did something wrong he would give me tips how to do it etc.
IDC: Describe your training day.
Torn & Partanen: We usually train about three to four hours every day on the ice, usually in the mornings. The trip to the ice rink takes about 30 minutes for me and about an hour for Cessi as she lives in a city close to Helsinki. After the ice training, we have either ballet or pilates, or ballroom/choreography training with dancer Sami and Jutta Helenius, who were in the Finnish Dancing with the Stars. Additionally, we both have our gym programs that we do by ourselves.
Most of the year we spend training in Finland, but every summer we train Canton in the U.S., with Marina Zueva and her coaching team. It’s been an absolute pleasure to have had the opportunity to train there every summer.
IDC: What is it like to work with Maurizio (an Olympic medalist) as your coach? Has he given you any helpful advice?
Torn & Partanen: It’s been really fun and an amazing experience working with Maurizio. He has a clear vision of what we need to work on and how to do stuff. It’s also very easy for us to get along with him. He’s really humorous and relaxed but can also be strict and demanding when needed. And since he had such a long and prolific competitive career himself, he has good insights about training and understands our problems and whatnot. Probably, most of our progress as a team is thanks to him.
On the ice it’s cool that if the man is doing something wrong he will show with the girl how it’s done correctly. And vice versa, if the girl does something wrong he’ll show the girls part. He really has a very wide knowledge about everything ice dance.
IDC: This season, you have won three international medals, your first as a team. Were there changes in your training to contribute to these results?
Torn & Partanen: There wasn’t probably a single factor that contributed to this. First of all, this is probably the first year we have been able to train full on for the whole year. The first year we just started together and last year, all the boys had to do the compulsory military training. Also, since this year, we’re the only senior couple training with Maurizio, we have had all of his attention on every ice session. Other than that it’s probably just a result of getting to know each other and each other’s skating better and better, and being able to focus on more difficult things on the ice.
IDC: How did you come up with your choices for your programs this year? Which is your favorite?
Torn & Partanen: We came up with the programs together with Maurizio and Matteo Zanni who helped us with the choreography this spring. Cessi had been looking at some videos from the show So You Think You Can Dance and she really liked the “Gravity” piece. After telling Maurizio about it, he said that’s exactly the same dance he had been looking at, so obviously we decided to go with it. And for the free dance, we wanted to have something more traditional and after Maurizio and Matteo played this one piece on the ice we really liked, we told them we really liked it and decided on the Frank Sinatra piece.
The free dance is definitely our favorite. We really like the program as a whole and we both feel like we are really able to get into the feeling and the emotion of the story of the program. And the whole program feels like it just works well for us, it’s natural.
IDC: Last year, you debuted at the World Championships and finished 25th. What did you learn from competing at this competition and did it push you for this season?
Torn & Partanen: It was an amazing experience. It was the first time for both of us being at Worlds. It was really cool getting to see all the top teams and how they train and such. The experience definitely motivated us to try even harder, to work even harder than before.
IDC: Finland has not had an ice dance team in the top 10 at Worlds since Susanna Rahkamo & Petri Kokko. What do you think it will take to get there again?
Torn & Partanen: A lot of commitment day in and day out, longevity in the training. Establishing a team of trainers also off the ice, to take care of the physical attributes etc. Other than that, it just takes a whole lot of work, pushing even harder and harder and not giving up no matter the hardships.
IDC: What is your favorite thing about skating with your partner?
Torn & Partanen: For both of us it is that all the competitions and trainings and everything else that we do together, we do try to keep it relaxed and keep the humor as a part of everything. We both really enjoy skating and we try to keep it light, even the day’s workout might be a killer otherwise. We try to keep an overall positive atmosphere every day and we laugh a lot together.
We get along really well, everything feels really natural and we hardly ever run out of things to talk about, or joke about.
IDC: How do you spend your free time?
Torn: I spend my free time coaching single skaters, aged from 6 to 16, and also studying. I also spend a lot of time with my family and our dogs. And according to Jussiville, I spend a lot of time on social media!
Partanen: I spend my free time either with my family and dog or friends, or working out. I also watch a lot of movies and series, and draw. Other than that, I just started studying International Business at a university last summer, so that takes a lot of my free time nowadays.