Chelsea Rose Chiappa: "I love everything about skating!"
Her grandfather played soccer for Hungary in the famous Népstadion (now Puskás Ferenc Stadium). She never expected that one day she would skate next to that venue in a new ice rink.
Her mother was all excited when Júlia Sebestyén came to Connecticut, but she never expected she would be coached by the same coach, András Száraz. Life sometimes can write the most interesting stories and Chelsea Rose Chiappa, a 19-year-old skater born in the US is now representing Hungary.
The European championships in Sheffield was Chelsea’s
first major senior competition – she was originally a substitute entry,
but Viktória Pavuk was injured a few days before the competition.
Chelsea, who skated first, placed 27th in the short program, didn’t
qualify for the free skating, but she was happy about her performance. We
caught up with her in the mixed zone immediately after she left the ice.
You learnt that you would compete here a week before
the Europeans, when Viktória Pavuk twisted her ankle and had to withdraw.
What was your reaction?
I was so excited. And I’m satisfied with my short program here in Sheffield. It went well. I feel that with András I’ve improved a lot so I was just happy to be out there.
Are you usually nervous before a competition?
I feel a little nervous, but once I get on the ice, I feel okay.
Did it matter to you that you had to skate first?
I like to skate first. At the draw András asked me what number I’d like to have and I said: Egy! (One.) He asked: seriously? But I was serious. I like it because at training we just skate around and then we say, OK, do a program now. Skating first at a competition is the same thing, you go there, warm-up and skate your program.
You said that you feel you’ve improved. In what way?
Especially in my jumping, we’ve been working very hard on that. There is a very supportive and motivating environment in Budapest; we push each other with the other skaters.
Tell us something about your training.
I train two to three hours on the ice and one to two hours off ice five days a week. I train in Connecticut in the US and when I’m in Budapest, I train with András.
How much time do you spend in Hungary?
This year I was there for one week, then I came back, then I went for another week before the European’s.
What is your connection to the Hungarian culture and language?
My mother was the first one in the family who was born in the US. My grandmother, great grandmother and uncle escaped from Hungary during the 1956 revolution. In 2008 there was an idea that I could skate for Hungary. That’s really a big honour for me, because we’ve always been very Hungarian in my family.
Do you speak Hungarian at home?
My Hungarian is not so good because my family members start to talk in Hungarian, then they switch to English, back and forth, back and forth… But I can say: “Nagyon örülök, hogy Magyarországot képviselhetem!” (I’m happy that I can represent Hungary.)
On your website there is an article which says that all your family was crying when you received your Hungarian sports uniform.
They were very happy. We have a big connection to the country. My grandfather played soccer for Hungary and when I got my uniform they took many pictures outside of the skating rink, because it’s next to the football stadium where he used to play.
How did you become a figure skater?
My grandmother lived across the street from a skating rink, and I went there when I was five. And I just started skating!
What is the thing you love the most about this sport?
Doing my program, doing shows, just skating and performing.
Who chooses your music and costume?
I usually pick my program and the coach says okay or not okay. Igen, nem (Yes, no.). As for my dresses, they are designed in Connecticut. That lady who does them listens to the music and we design them together.
What kind of music do you like?
I like to skate to more lyrical music. I love when I can feel the music.
What is your favourite element?
I like spinning and I like doing loops. I like everything!
Who are the skaters you look up to?
When I was little I loved Tara Lipinski. As for the current skaters… I don’t know… I think Júlia Sebestyén was an awesome skater. I also like Kiira Korpi; her skating is so happy.
Did you follow the career of Júlia when you were a child?
Yes! I remember that once she came to a training camp in Connecticut with András in 2004 and my mum was so excited: “She’s here, she’s here! We have to go watch her skate”. In the end I didn’t meet her back then but I followed her results.
Now you are also coached by András Száraz, Júlia’s former coach.
I would never have imagined this! I was only twelve at the time. I had no idea what was going to happen.
What were your first impressions when you came to Hungary?
Everything was okay. People were so nice, they were welcoming. I’ve made lot of friends like Dóri and Balázs, the ice dancers. I’d already met them in France at a competition and it was nice.
So nobody told you that you are not a real Hungarian.
No, no! And I can prove that I’m Hungarian!
What are the differences between training in Hungary and in the US?
I like training in the US, because I grew up there, I know it so well. But when I went to a training camp with András, I liked training in a group where everyone was so hard-working.
What are your goals for the future?
I’d like to go to the Worlds, I’d like to be the National Champion of Hungary and hopefully go to the Olympics. That’s what I’m working for.
How do you see the future of Hungarian figure skating? After Júlia’s retirement it seems a bit empty.
I feel that I’d like to bring those times back. Everyone loved Júlia and she made such a big name for Hungary – I want to do the same. I’m working very hard.
What was your best memory connected with figure skating so far?
Last year at Nationals I was second, it was very special for me. I skated a clean program and I was just very happy. It was very exciting. And a few years ago I skated in a charity show in front of a big audience. I had a solo. I was only fourteen and it was a great moment for me.
P. S. One of Chelsea’s dreams has already come true – she won the gold medal at the Hungarian Nationals in February.