Celebrities on ice – a visit to a Swedish skating club

By Magdalena Osborne
Photos ┬ę EMJO

It’s off season but Absolute Skating is not resting. Skating related events can pop up anywhere and the crew is scattered around the world for a reason: to continually bring you reports, updates and interviews. Sweden may be a small skating nation, but it still hosts its share of excitement as Magdalena and EMJO found out, and it happened right in their own back yard.

At the end of May the ice rink in Malmö only has a few days of ice left and will soon be put to rest for the summer.
“There won’t be any more ice until August”, Ela Magnusson, head coach of the Malmö Skating Club explains. “It’s hard but we’ve learned to live with it. We find other means of training.”

But for now the rink is buzzing with activity. At least 20 kids are on the ice, several have come from other clubs. It’s a big day since Michael Huth is visiting, an event few want to miss. He is on the ice with the students, showing them some moves and step combinations. They watch and listen and then try it themselves. Some of the exercises are hard and the kids struggle, but Ela is pleased.
“I’m so glad Michael could come”, she says with a smile. “This is really good for them!”
She refers to the students and watching them it’s not hard to understand what she means.

Even the elite group during the following session is having a hard time. Kristoffer Berntsson, who normally skates in the Landvetter Club, appreciates the opportunity.
“Our ice is already gone”, he informs us, “and I usually come to Malmö around this time. I have never trained with Michael before and what he does is quite different, he has a lot of good ideas.”
Lina Johansson agrees.
“I had the opportunity to work with Michael in Oberstdorf last summer and his exercises are interesting. It’s stuff we normally don’t do and it’s fun!”

You too can get a glimpse of one of Michael’s exercises, the jump-in-the-corners-at-high-speed, by watching >>this video<<!*

Michael himself is a hard worker and I’m told he expects the people he works with to be the same way. He’s been on the ice since early morning and his only break is the short time it takes the Zamboni to resurface the ice. I get five minutes with him and with a coffee mug in hand he starts talking about why he came to Sweden.
“Ela and I had talked about it for some time but until now things kept coming up. It’s the first time I’m here and I only have three days, but I’m hoping to be able to give the students some basic exercises they can continue doing with their own coaches. These kids are at different levels so I try to give them something they can all benefit from.”

And he does that very well. Growing up as a skater in the former East Germany he’s no stranger to vigorous training routines, and he had the necessary support from trainers and mentors. He calls it “filter tutoring”.
“It works like pouring coffee through a filter. The flaws get stuck and only the best and purest comes through.”

And that’s what he wants for the students. He offers them his experience and own years of perfecting skills and they respond. It’s amazing to watch how he’s able to bring out the best in each individual. With pride he also talks about the Ice-Dome, the summer camp in beautiful Oberstdorf (Southern Germany) which has become a real skating attraction.

“This year we’ll have over 100 students from 15 nations. The different coaches will accommodate any style but we all have a common goal: To give each student complete training, on and off the ice. We offer conditioning and ballet as well as step, spin and technique sessions.”

Upon inquiring about his student Carolina Kostner, we find out she will also be at the Ice-Dome. And before Michael takes the last sip of his coffee, he tells us about his other summer plans.

“After Oberstdorf I will be in Leppävirta, Finland for three more weeks of Ice-Dome and then go to South Africa, all for training. I have friends there and it’s the third year I help them out.”
There is no mention of any vacation, but such is life for a coach. It’s class time again and Michael grabs his skates while we take the opportunity to talk more with Kristoffer and Lina as they relax and recharge before their next session, the third for the day.

The first topic of our conversation is new programs:
“I will have two new programs this year, and so far we’ve been working on the long”, Kristoffer says. “This year both programs will be made at the club by Andrea and Zerjon”.
This piece of information makes us cheer. Andrea Dohany is his talented coach and Zerjon Abebe is the dance teacher who in the last three years has created fun and different short programs for Kristoffer. Who can forget his master performance at the Budapest Europeans in 2004?
“The music is decided, and as usual it’ll be a whole new style for me, but…”

The teasing smile on his face makes it clear he isn’t ready to go public with the music yet and Lina starts laughing.
“Ela has made my programs and I’d tell you my music, but I don’t know what it is!”
That seems to be common among skaters, but we recognize the music for her long program and will give you a hint: think opera and Shizuka!

See parts of her LP here!* Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Lina was forced to sit out most of last season due to injuries, which was a major disappointment.
“I only competed once (at Europeans) and it didn’t go well. So now I want to leave it all behind me, the bad memories and the programs. I just want to be able to train again and not be bothered by injuries. I have to get back to where I was before the injury and I’m close but I need the consistency.”

We spent some time watching her on the ice and can for sure testify that she is a different Lina than last season. She’s slimmer and trimmer, and the fire is back. Things are looking very promising!

“I know I hardly skated my programs last season, but I’ll still have new ones and new costumes as well. It’s a shame though because I ordered three dresses last year, and they will now only serve as practice clothes, but…”
She smiles and shrugs her shoulders. Life has dealt her some lemons but she’s armed herself with sugar and is ready to come back. She told me years ago she’s a fighter who doesn’t give up and she keeps proving it. Such people can only be admired.
“I don’t know yet which competitions I’ll be assigned next season, but luckily they‘re all still months away and I have the summer camps to help me prepare (Ice-Dome and Flims). I’ll work on everything really, but especially on conditioning, jumps and spins. With some things it’s almost like starting from scratch.”

Besides skating Lina has another goal. She has a learner’s permit and has started driving under the supervision of her parents.
”I think I do ok, but all my friends and family hide indoors… No, but I won’t have much time to drive during the summer since I’ll be away so much, but come fall… I’ll turn 18 in September and then I can take the test.”
Good luck to you, girl, with skating and driving!

Kristoffer’s last season wasn’t what he’d hoped for either.
”It was a tough year, I felt like I was never able to catch up. The injury kept me off the ice for six weeks, I couldn’t do a thing, and then I competed in Oberstdorf just two weeks later. Then the competitions kept coming just a few weeks apart and I was never completely prepared. I didn’t ever feel like I was in good enough shape or that I owned the programs.”

But in spite of the disappointments he remains optimistic about next season.
“Sure I’m optimistic; it’s the same thing every year! I have hopes, dreams and expectations, and I have new goals. Every season I learn something new.”
Like the quad? The mere mention makes him cringe.
“Can we not talk about the quad? I mean, yes, I still want it, but with the injuries and all I haven’t had a chance to work on it, I’ve had to prioritize other things. And besides, the quad has lost some of its importance, although of course you end up in a different league if you do have it…”
Quad or no quad, after a long wait he did get the chance to compete at the Olympics.

“Yes, Torino was something special, it was like… big! I was very happy when I was told I could go. I didn’t do so great… but those who complained about the men’s event should try competing themselves, it’s not so easy! But after the short program I thought I would get more points, there were many of us within just a few points of each other and among them I ended up last. I felt that was a bit unfair.”
Lina missed out on the Torino experience but isn’t sorry, with the injury she couldn’t have competed anyway. Instead there’s a sparkle in her eye when she says:
“There’s always Vancouver!”

Along with the new season Kristoffer will face another show down with Adrian Schultheiss at Nationals over Sweden’s, once again, only spot at Europeans.
“Yes, it’s really too bad we lost our second spot. And facing Adrian, well, it comes down to coming out on top!”
So it does and may the best man win! But Kristoffer also had to deal with another set back as fellow skater and friend Filip Stiller announced his decision to quit competitive skating.
“That made me very sad. Very sad indeed…”

We know how he feels; we didn’t exactly jump for joy either when we found out. But we can look forward to more TV commentating by Filip and possibly to seeing him as an international judge and caller.
Before we part Lina wants us to make sure to tell all the readers that she and Kristoffer haven’t given up, they’ll keep fighting. None of them have any information yet about competitions this fall, but both will summer train in Oberstdorf and then in Flims with Viktor Kudriavtsev, a coach who has helped both of them for many years.

Watch Kristoffer doing some of Michael Huths exercises >>here<< and Kristoffer & Lina together >>here<<!*

But our adventure doesn’t stop there. Only a few days later the Malmö rink is visited by another skating celebrity: Salomé Brunner. She is on a quick visit with her bundle-of-charm son Leo, to help Lina with her programs. While she is working, Leo is supposed to stay with Ela and her group, but several times he sneaks away to check what mama is doing. During the breaks he becomes the centre of attraction and his energy is endless. He skates, but we find out that his big passion is playing the percussions. He takes lessons and practices diligently and is getting so good that Stéphane Lambiel told him to keep it up so he can skate to his playing like several skaters have performed to Edvin Marton’s violin music. Great idea!

The Norwegian coach Marek Chrolenko is on the ice with his two teenage children, and several other young skaters are training as well. Salomé is assigned one corner and she’s very busy with Lina. They listen to the music, try some moves and then listen some more.

It’s fascinating to watch and see the program evolve and come to life. (You can watch a bit too, click here!*) The short program is very pretty and Salomé tells us she had some music in mind for the long, but Lina already had something picked out, so they might well end up making two long programs. About Lina’s last season Salomé says:
“Lina had a bad last season, yes, but I think all athletes go through a season like that, and they have to start from the bottom and work themselves up. Somehow something good seems to come out of it in the end.”

We really hope it will and Salomé is optimistic about the new programs.
“Now, I like the music, it’s very pretty for Lina. We’ll work on the program; some things came to my mind when I first saw it. We’ll perfect it and give it character. We have two days now and then we’ll have many days in Oberstdorf to work some more together.”
And we have no doubts the results will be fantastic.

By now the rink in Malmö is empty and abandoned, but we can’t wait to see the finished programs and for the new season to start!

In case you overlooked the linked videos, here are all Absolute Skatings videos. 7 of them belong to this article.
* For watching be sure to select the smaller image for the best quality (this icon in the lower section of the player )

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