Ice Network

Fusar-Poli, Caruso embrace teaching roles

Former coach-skater duo enjoy educating next wave of figure skaters
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Barbara Fusar-Poli (second from left) and Stefano Caruso (second from right) enjoy a light moment with students Timothy Koleto and Misato Komatsubara, who represent Japan, during some downtime. -Francesca Bruschi

When ice dancer Stefano Caruso finished skating competitively following the 2013-14 season, he was sure he would go into coaching. Known and respected across the skating community, he had job offers in the United States but ultimately chose to join his long-time coach, Barbara Fusar-Poli, at home in Italy, where the two are trying to build a thriving ice dance training center.

"In my career, I always liked to coach when I had free time -- skating skills, choreography, singles, pairs, ice dance. I really like to share my knowledge from the experience I've had with a lot of international coaches," said Caruso, who, in addition to Fusar-Poli, trained with Nikoli Morozov, Igor Shpilband and Martin Skotnický.

"All that information I kind of put in a box, and when I coach, I try to make the perfect solution for the skater I have in front of me," he added.

After winning the 2001 world championship and 2002 Olympic bronze medal with Maurizio Margaglio, Fusar-Poli began her coaching career. She stopped for a year while she and Margaglio prepared to return for the 2005-06 Olympic season but resumed working with students after the Torino Games.

Fusar-Poli also trained with a number of great coaches throughout her career -- including Tatiana Tarasova, Natalia Linichuk and Roberto Pelizzola -- and she also enjoyed a stint in Shpilband's camp in Novi, Michigan.

Before Caruso, 29, officially joined Fusar-Poli, 45, he asked to watch her teach so he could understand how she worked. After a while, she began to ask his opinion on things. They realized they shared a common philosophy on skating, which prioritized a genuine passion for the sport and trust between skater and coach.

"I am fresh from competing, so I bring that perspective, and she has so much experience -- it's a really good match," Caruso said.

Based at the Agorà ice rink in Milan, Fusar-Poli and Caruso have plenty of early mornings and long days, but they make sure to always maintain a positive outlook.

"We are creating something in Italy, where this sport is a little more difficult," Fusar-Poli said. "I'm working in the same rink where I spent my career with Maurizio. The boss of the rink trusts in me as an athlete and as a coach. They gave me the possibility to do something. I started with one team and now me and Stefano have 12 teams -- Italian, Japanese, German, Polish, French -- and it's nice.

"My athletes are listening, and they are focused on the ice," she added. "We are happy because we are creating something really important every single day."

Today, she deftly manages family life with building the next generation of ice dancers.

Fusar-Poli's daughter, Giorgia, shares her mother's love for dance, but the 12-year-old directs it into ballroom dancing. She is currently training with champions Francesca Berardi and Giacomo Lucchese.

Her 8-year-old son, Christian, also loves the ice, but he's taken after Fusar-Poli's husband, Diego Cattani, and gone into short track speed skating.

"It's a big family, and everyone is working for these kids," she said. "It's not easy to be a mom and, in the same moment, to be a wife and a coach, but I like to do this. When I wake up early in the morning, of course I'm tired, but I come on the ice and I like what I'm doing."

Caruso is from Italy but competed for Germany with Tanja Kolbe in the final years of his career. Grateful for the opportunities the German skating federation gave him, he gives back by helping train young skaters from that country. This year, he'll do a series of week-long seminars in Germany.

Before that, though, he will attend the upcoming world championships in Helsinki to watch girlfriend Gabriella Papadakis compete. Fusar-Poli will be there, too, with Italian ice dancers Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri. 

"I spend a lot of energy on this program in the beginning because I was alone; now I'm not alone anymore," Fusar-Poli said. "I couldn't have a better job. This is what I want to do in my life."