by Daphne Backman | Photos by Robin Ritoss
This week, Federica Testa & Lukas Csolley will make their Grand Prix debut at Skate America in Chicago. The team has been steadily improving to earn this chance since the start of their partnership three years ago.
In September 2011, Italian-born Testa’s two-year partnership with Christopher Mior came to an end. At the same time, Slovakian training-mates Nikola Visnova & Lukas Csolley decided to stop skating together after five years as an on-ice duo. Testa had a brief tryout in Finland that didn’t pan out, and then she returned to Italy. Both teams had trained in the same location for the past year and their coaches encouraged them to try out with each other. “It worked out very well, so we decided to start our adventure and represent Slovakia,” Csolley said. In just their third season together, Testa & Csolley moved from 17th to 12th at the European Championships and finished fourth at the Winter Universiade. They placed 23rd at the 2014 World Championships and were just 1.5 points from qualifying from the free dance.
Testa received her citizenship for Slovakia last November, which made her eligible to compete for Slovakia at the Winter Olympic Games, but the team narrowly missing qualifying for the Sochi Olympics after finishing one place away from qualification at Nebelhorn Trophy last fall. Testa & Csolley were first alternates, but did not skate in Sochi.
“This situation gave us the motivation to work even harder in order to improve and to be ready for the next Olympics,” Csolley said. “In this particular year, we had our greatest career success, but we also had a big disappointment, so we learned that it is very important to never give up. We really believe that hard work will be rewarded.”
Testa & Csolley have taken a different approach for their short dance this season.
“The idea for the short dance is going to be a little different because Federica will represent the matador, and I will represent the bull,” Csolley said, referring to a role reversal. In the traditional interpretation of the Paso Doble, the man is the matador, while the lady is either the bull or the cape.
Their free dance theme is a circus with Csolley as the ring master working to transform Testa from a normal person to an acrobat.
“We have been working on new elements and new programs,” Csolley said. “The choice of the music is always a very important moment. It means a lot to us the emotions that the music give us. We always like to create and perform a story in our program and we like to try to bring a new ideas. We are trying to express ourselves using new music or interpreting the classical ones in a different way.”
While they are focused on their goal of reaching the top ten at Europeans and top 20 at Worlds, they are philosophical and realistic about results and their performances.
“We don’t like to talk about the results, because the results are not depending just from us,” Csolley said. “Figure skating is a very subjective sport and for us, it is always very important to give 100% on the ice, so we can be completely satisfied with ourselves.”
Testa first took to the ice at the age of six on a public session with her parents. She was captivated by two girls who were practicing jumps and spins.
“I thought that what they were doing was beautiful, and I decided that i wanted to do it, too. So the day after, my mum went to book the first lesson and I have never stopped since then,” Testa said. When he was young, Csolley’s sister was skating, so his mother brought him to the ice to have his first lesson. Like most ice dancers, they both started as singles skaters. Testa switched to ice dancing at the age of nine, while Csolley waited until he was 16.
Currently, they practice six days per week from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Assago Forum in Milan, Italy. While Milan is Testa’s hometown, Csolley has gotten accustomed to training away from his hometown of Bratislava.
“I’ve been far from home already for nine years, so I can say that I am used to it,” Csolley said. “At the beginning, it was hard and even now I miss my family, but I have to say that I like living in Milan because I have a lot of good friends here.”
Their training includes four hours of on-ice work paired with ballet and gym workouts. While coach Robert Pelizzola focuses on their technical skills, their programs are put together by Paola Mezzadri and their ballet instructor, Corrado Giordani. Mirco Botta works with them on their physical development. With their dedicated training regimen, Testa & Csolley have limited free time, but enjoy winding down after a busy week of training.
“I am doing university, so I have often to study, but I love to go out with friends, party and shopping,” Testa said. “I love art, so I often go to museums and cinema.” “My big hobby is photography,” Csolley added.
“At the end of week, I like to spend time with my friends and going out for a dinner. I also love movies and music.”
As far as the future is concerned, Testa is studying economy in school with the intent of entering the management world, but she hasn’t ruled out staying involved with skating as a coach. Skating is the certain future for Csolley.
“For sure, I would like to stay with figure skating like a coach, choreographer, or in another project with skating,” Csolley said. “I am already used to doing some lessons with little kids, and I really like it.”
Testa & Csolley made their season’s debut earlier this month at Ondrej Nepela Trophy, where they captured the bronze medal. While in Bratislava, the team received the news that they would make their Grand Prix debut at Skate America in Chicago.
“We feel honored to have had this invitation,” Csolley said. “We worked so hard to have this opportunity, and we are very happy that we have finally reached it. We want to enjoy every moment at the competition and show everyone our hard work and these new programs that we like so much.”