Sunday, February 19, 2006


The Goddess is in the house

La bella Silvia Fontana, five time Italian champion and 10th-place finisher at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake, may have been eclipsed by Carolina Kostner on the international skating scene, but for me she'll always be the quintessential Italian skating star. The first time I saw her skate was about ten years ago--she did a perfect short program, positively emitting a glow of passion, which made tears immediately spring to my eyes. Since then, I've only caught her a few times here and there because she rarely makes it to the final group or gets invited to the Grand Prix events, but every time I have seen her skate, she's put a smile on my face that was slow to fade. Her jumps are strong and solid when they're there, her edges are crystal clear, and she uses her body in a perfect blend of athleticism and artistry. Then there's this: She distills the popular notion of the exuberant Italian spirit in her routines, and she's delectably gorgeous in an unmistakably Italian manner: Think Claudia Cardinale on ice.

Having been active in various ice shows around the globe in the last few years, she has now returned to the competitive scene to skate the Olympics in her home country--specifically to do that; she says she wouldn't have gone through the harrowing paces of getting back into world class shape if the Olympics were not being held in Italy. Coach Robin Wagner, who helped Sarah Hughes to Olympic gold four years ago, led the skater to a second place Italian national finish behind Kostner, and now she's in Torino getting ready for the ladies competition, with her husband, US skater John Zimmerman, and a legion of Italian fans, cheering her on. I'll be hoping to see another clean routine from Fontana in the short program Tuesday night--it sure would be nice to see her finally make that final group, especially on Italian ice!

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