by Anne Calder | Photos by Robin Ritoss

What happens in an Olympic Season when your country has two elite ice dance teams, but only one spot for the Games? Sara Hurtado & Kirill Khaliavin and Olivia Smart & Adrian Diaz both represent Spain and faced that challenge in 2018 and again in 2022. 

This awkward situation actually has its genesis in 2006. At the time, Hurtado (14) and Diaz (16) were single skaters looking for a new direction in their sport.  When the Spanish Federation sponsored a Summer Camp organized by French coach, Romain Haguenauer, the two friends attended together and loved the discipline.

Two years later former British skater, John Dunn arrived in Madrid to coach and officially their ice dance journey began. They competed as juniors on the international level and in 2011 as seniors at Europeans and the World Championships.

“He took two single skaters with completely different techniques to International competitions where we competed as the first couple in the history of Spain,” Hurtado said back in 2017.

In September 2011, they moved with their coach to England, but were unhappy with the training setup. 

The duo had spent summers in Montreal with Marie France Dubreuil and liked her coaching style.  Four months later, they moved to Canada. At Nebelhorn In 2013, they qualified Spain for the Olympics.  The following year they attended the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia as the first Spanish team to do so.

In late 2015 the partnership was dissolved. Diaz remained in Montreal and began skating with Olivia Smart. Hurtado returned to Spain before joining Kirill Khaliavin in Moscow, Russia to train with Alexander Zhulin’s team.

Since Spain qualified only one ice dance team for the 2018 Olympics, the Spanish Federation announced in July 2017 that spot would go to the team with the highest combined score at the 2017 Golden Spin of Zagreb and the Spanish Nationals. 

The final deficit between the two teams was 0.95 in favor of Hurtado & Khaliavin who were assigned to Europeans and the PyeongChang Olympics. Smart & Diaz competed at the ISU World Championships in Milan, Italy.

Again in 2021, the two teams faced off to qualify for the Olympics. The Finlandia Trophy, the Spanish Nationals and the ISU European Championship’s cumulative scores would determine who would compete in Beijing. By a total margin of 13.33 Smart & Diaz earned the 2022 assignment to the Winter Games.

At Skate America in late October 2021, IDC chatted with Choreographer Romain Haguenauer, Olivia Smart and Adrian Diaz about the selection of their free dance music, which includes the following pieces:

  • “I Was Always There” by Henry Jackman 
  • “The Fencing Lesson” (The Mask of Zorro soundtrack) by James Horner
  • “I Want To Spend My Lifetime Loving You” (The Mask of Zorro soundtrack) performed by Tina Arena, Marc Anthony
  •  “The Plaza Of Execution “(The Mask of Zorro soundtrack) by James Horner

“We were looking for music for the season,” Haguenauer said. “They had to compete for the Olympic spot, so we needed to do strategy. First they had an idea to do something Spanish, but the other team used Spanish music last season. I told them it would be too comparable. Then Adria jokingly suggested we use Zorro, which I thought was not a bad idea. Actually, I thought it could be great.”

“We listened to the music. Some was a bit cheesy. It had been done a long time ago. No dance team has used it for a lot of years,” Haguenauer continued. “I’m a coach for a long time, so I remember what the previous team did with the music. We should put this part here to make it look different than what the skaters used in the past.”

“I told them that you have to do the role – the character. When you make the decision to do the role, you do the whole role. You don’t do it halfway, or people won’t understand it. They followed my idea of the program and the choreography,” he ended.

Smart and Diaz shared their thoughts on the program.

“We chose this program to please everybody in a little way,” Smart explained. “Even if you don’t like Flamenco or Paso Doble, we added a love story.

“It’s always fun to perform the program when you know people can relate to the story,” added Diaz.

“We had an idea in our minds, a concept,” said Smart. “Romain helped us with that. He had a very clear idea what music he wanted to use. There were so many options. At the beginning it’s a bit mysterious, then the twizzles, then a bit more sexy, and the aggressive choreo steps at the end with the Paso Doble. We fully trusted Romain when he suggested that. It’s a great mix. It’s working.”

“As a choreographer,” Haguenauer said. “You don’t have an idea in the morning, and that’s it. It’s a process with the skaters on the ice. We had a lot of fun playing with the character. It’s why I was happy to see a standing ovation when the program made its debut here [at Skate America]. It showed me that the program worked.”

“People started cheering halfway through our choreo steps, and we weren’t near the end of the program yet,” Smart said. “I couldn’t help but smile and feel proud of what we did.”

Haguenauer reflected on how his history with Diaz has made it easy to work with the team. 

“I’ve done a lot of choreography for Adria from the very beginning. I discovered him in Barcelona [Spain] when he was a single skater a long time ago. I put him in dance, and it worked very well. The collaboration to find a good thing and to explore different choreography makes it a pleasure for me to work with them.”