Pyeongchang, Korea

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Marchei and Hotarek (ITA) Free Skating

You don’t need to win an Olympic medal to skate right into people's hearts. This is exactly what Valentina Marchei and Ondrej Hotarek did at the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. The Italian pair delivered three spectacular performances in the team event Free Skating as well as in the individual Short and Free Program and lit up the Gangneung Ice Arena with their big smiles. The team event was already a big highlight for the skaters that train in Bergamo in northern Italy. “This meant way more for us than our own (individual) competition. When we are skating together, it is just the responsibility we have towards the person next to you, and now it was towards the entire national team that is with us since many years,” Marchei shared.

“To hit the perfect performance in the Olympics for your country, this is probably the feeling we could have wished for,” Hotarek added. They finished second in the team Free Skating. But the best was yet to come.

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Marchei/Hotarek first delivered a personal best performance of their entertaining Short Program to “Tu vo fa l’Americano” in the individual competition and then followed up with another personal best Free Skating of their Italian themed program “Amarcord” by Nino Rota, trumping their score from the team event. The duo finished sixth overall in a highly competitive field and they couldn’t have been more excited. They stormed into the mixed zone, hugged friends and journalists, laughed and spoke at the same time.



"Today was like in practice, when you are calm and you already had two Olympic moments (in the team event), you don't wish for the third because, percentage-wise, we thought it's impossible. But we found out it is possible to complete that many programs in such short a time,” Marchei said. “During the team event we were concentrating on doing the things because we needed to do. Today was like, 'Let's be ourselves' and that's the best you can do - skate and be yourself," she added.

"It's great. It was hard for us to face this event. Everybody skated so good today and we had a great free skate. It actually worked even better today. I actually experienced different emotions throughout the program. But it really worked in our favor,” Hotarek explained.

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Many people had thought it was a mission impossible when Marchei, who competed in singles for many years, in 2014 at age 28 joined forces with Hotarek. The duo proved everyone wrong, winning the National title in their first season and placing consistently in the top six in Europe and making the top ten at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2017.

“You know, there were people that had told us that at 28 and 31, when I have been skating for 20 years as a single skater, we were probably crazy to continue. But we had this trust in each other and were willing to have fun, but a different kind of fun, because we love skating. And now here we are. It just worked out,” Marchei said.

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Marchei, whose father is a two-time Olympian competing in the marathon event, apparently has inherited his endurance to start a new career when others would think of retirement.

Marchei and Hotarek are now looking forward to another highlight of their career at the upcoming ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Milan, Italy, their home town.