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The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew - Sept. 22

Marchei talks about the upcoming season

Valentina Marchei is excited for the start of the new season.
Valentina Marchei is excited for the start of the new season. (courtesy of Valentina Marchei)

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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to icenetwork.com
(09/22/2010) - Sarah and Drew bring you the latest behind-the-scenes skating news.

News from Valentina -- Latvia
Talking to Valentina Marchei is kind of like riding a very fun roller-coaster that never stops. Although it was still summer, Marchei was bundled in a coat and stylish scarf in a café in Latvia when we met up for a Skype video chat.

"When we got here it was warm so we had shorts on, but now it's so cold I had to buy a coat! I'm wearing my skating tights under my pants," she said.

Marchei trains with coach Nikolai Morozov, alongside 2007 world champion Miki Ando, Florent Amodio, siblings Cathy Reed and Chris Reed, Sergei Voronov, Javier Fernandez and Abzal Rakimgaliev, from Kazakhstan. This summer, Morozov moved his group from New Jersey to Moscow, but the weather, and the fires there, were problematic.

"I stayed all of July in France," Marchei said. "When I got home it was Friday and I was supposed to move to Moscow on Monday. Cathy and Chris Reed called me and said it was impossible to breathe in Moscow because of the smoke and the fires. The apartment I was supposed to share with the Reeds and Florent had no air conditioning, and it was 40 degrees [Celsius; 104 degrees Fahrenheit] out and the smoke was coming in, so it was dangerous. They came to my house in Italy and we had to wash everything, because everything smelled of smoke."

Morozov hastily arranged for the group to train in Daugavpils, Latvia.

"It's the perfect place to practice; there is nothing here," Marchei said. "We have a lot of ice time, and we are like stars there. It's a huge deal that Morozov's team is there, all these national champions. Few people speak English there, so we speak a little bit of Russian. By train it's four hours from Riga, by crazy taxi drivers it's two hours twenty minutes."

The future is slightly uncertain, however, and since Morozov has students competing almost every week during the Grand Prix season, the skaters move around a lot. Sometimes they travel with him, even if they aren't competing; other times they work with a secondary coach while he's away.

"We are probably going to go back to Moscow, but we don't know when," Marchei went on. "It depends where we travel during the season. We'll probably stay in Latvia til the beginning of the season. And then we'll probably go back in the New Year."

"We all have 'plan B' coaches because Nikolai travels a lot," Marchei said. "I spend winter in France, but probably before Cup of Russia we're going to come back here. It's teamwork. Wherever I go I have fun. You never see me upset -- I got used to all these travels. I have all the frequent flier cards."

Milan
A week later we caught up with Marchei by Skype from her home in Italy. She told us she hadn't seen her mother in three months.

"She asked me today, 'You don't seem very happy to be home!' Because I have so many things to do while I'm home. I skate from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. in the rink, then 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. in another one, then a massage because I'm getting old," Marchei joked.

"The purpose of coming home was to get costumes, at least that's what I told Nikolai. It's an important designer, but I can't tell you who yet. Last year there was a huge deal in Italy because nobody thought that I could win nationals so when I won there was all the press on me. Carolina [Kostner] opened the minds of the journalists to figure skating; it's pretty big now. Of course, everyone knows she's sponsored by Cavalli. And I was wearing dresses from two years ago!"

Marchei has promised to let us share with you who the designer is as soon as she's allowed to. We tore ourselves away from fashion and asked her about our skating.

"Since I started with Nikolai, it feels like I just started to skate," she said with enthusiasm. "It's really amazing. I go on the other day and I'm like 'Ah, I'm happy to go on the ice.'

"They are all good in my group. We always travel together so we are a family. When we have a day off we all hang out together. Miki is unbelievable athlete, because she does those jump like she eats popcorn. After two days of travel from Japan she does clean long. We are the only two girls, and we're really close friends. We really motivate each other.

Marchei's season will start with the Ondrej Nepela Memorial competition in Bratislava, Slovakia.

"I start with Bratislava which is the week after Oberstdorf, then we have the Golden Awards of Ice Skating, it's a huge gala where Miki is going to skate, and Evan, Brian, at the Palavela in Torino. Then the week after I have Nice."

"I started to work with Nikolai in fall of 2008," Marchei went on. "I got injured at Skate America. I was supposed to go to Europeans but he decided we would just get ready for Worlds. And the next week I sprained my other ankle. So I was out until April, and I didn't start to jump triples again until June 2009.

"I spent all summer in New Jersey and Japan and started with the basics, double Axel, and I fell every day on this freaking double Axel. I was angry, and I was eating whatever. I couldn't get into a dress for a show, and Cathy Reed told me, 'I am your friend, but I think you should do something!' I lost about 6 kilos, and I was scary skinny. I was falling asleep after the practice, and I would skip dinner and stuff. My mother was scared when she saw me. And now I'm perfect, and controlled by everybody."

Marchei's father Marco was a champion marathon runner who competed in two Olympics. Valentina told us her father was the first Italian to finish in the top five in the New York marathon, and he was second in the Boston Marathon in 1980. He's currently the director of Italian Runner's World.

"My dad almost never comes to competitions because he's too afraid, he has a heart attack every time," she said. "He taught me that sport is an experience for life. He knows what it means to travel a lot and be apart from the family. I started traveling when I was 14 and I didn't know anything, I have never even kissed for the first time. My dad is the one I usually call when I have problems, or when I feel not so confident. He's always positive about the future. The first thing he told me when I got injured was, 'The next year you're gonna win nationals.'"

The rest of the family includes two brothers and a radio-host boyfriend. Marchei formerly dated Brian Joubert, and they even talked about skating pairs together.

"It's my dream, since I'm young, to do pairs, but also I like to win alone. So I don't think I'm good for pairs." It was getting late in Italy, so we caught our breath and said "Buona sera" for the time being. It was fun!

Crepes and Sushi
We heard from reigning U.S. junior champion Jason Brown on Sunday night, as he was finishing packing for a flight to Japan. He's competing at the Junior Grand Prix event in Karuizawa this week.

"I'm so excited," he said. "Japan has been my dream place to go my whole life. I can't wait for the sushi. I'm taking the bullet train to Nagano -- I can't even wait. I've never been to Asia or anything. I love traveling, I love the planes, I think it's the coolest thing."

He was pretty sad about one thing though, missing the season premier of Glee on Tuesday night.

"I am crushed!" he said. "I went to their concert though. And I am hoping that they are going to play it on the TVs on the plane. I know they won't but anything is possible." Brown only got back a couple of weeks ago from a trip to Courcheval, France, for the opening Junior Grand Prix event of the season.

"It was pretty out of the way. I had to take three planes and then we took a bus which took like four hours, it was a long one-and-a-half days. The whole town was actually closed -- they just opened it up for the competition," he told us. "It's a ski resort. Some restaurants were open, but they had funny hours. It was my first time ever in France and it was amazing! I love the whole group that went. I couldn't have asked for better teammates." We had a moment of dreamy remembrance of French food and Brown concurred.

"The croissants and the crepes were my favorites -- they were so good!" he enthused. "I loved the people -- they were so friendly. We were in the middle of the mountains and it couldn't have been a prettier place."

Brown lives in Highland Park, Illinois, where he spends every week driving around a lot.

"There are rinks everywhere," he said. "I train at four different rinks throughout the week."

The competition in Courchevel was Brown's first Junior Grand Prix event and only his second international (he competed at the Spring International in Gardena, Italy). "It was nice to know the feeling of what it was like. You're so excited and nervous and anxious, it gives you that feeling," he said.

If Brown medals in Japan, he will likely earn a second trip to Asia for the Junior Grand Prix final, in China. "My goal is to skate two solid clean programs -- I want to go there to win, and bring home a medal."

More soon,
Sarah and Drew
sarahanddrewblog@gmail.com
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