Challenge Cup (Tilburg)

Interview Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii

25th February 2023


Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii are the revelations of the pairs category this season. Third at Skate Canada and second at the Sheffield Grand Prix, they won their qualification for the Grand Prix Final in Turin, where they got a magnificent bronze medal. Their success then continued with the European championship title. Sara and Niccolo are a couple in life and on the ice and are showing us their joy of skating together. We met them at the Challenge Cup in Tilburg a few weeks before the World Championships in Saitama.


Solène: How was this Challenge Cup?

Niccolo: We competed to get additional training before the World Championships. Sara was angry about her mistake on the Salchow in the short program. This was the first jump she missed this season. And still, she didn't fall; she just doubled! But of course, we would have liked to skate a clean program. We also lost a level on the death spiral without understanding why. The free program was the most important thing for us because we wanted to try the triple toe / double Axel / double Axel sequence. Our preparation was focused on this sequence. We could have bowed and left the ice right after we got it done (laughs). Our goal is, of course, to get the best possible technical score at the world championships.


Solène: You are the stars of this pairs competition in Tilburg. How do you experience this new status?

Niccolo: It’s a little weird! But you know, we were already the stars at this competition two years ago (laughs). During the short program, we had a horrible fall on the Twist: I couldn’t catch Sara... The video went viral on the Internet! We are laughing about it today, but it was difficult then. In the short program, we aimed for the minimum technical score to qualify for the World Championships. We got it despite the fall. We wanted to skate a free program with lighter technical content because Sara was injured. In training just before the free program, Sara fell again on the Twist. Judges then recommended that we withdraw! So you see, people were already talking about us at the time (laughs).


Solène: What is your goal for the World Championships?

Niccolo: Our goal is always to skate the best possible program, without errors, so that whatever the result, we are satisfied. Besides, when we get a good result or even a medal without skating well, we are happy, but not as much. That's why we want to skate clean first and foremost. In Saitama, we know the first two places will be out of reach (NB: Niccolo refers to Riku Miura/Ryuichi Kihara and Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier). On the other hand, the bronze medal is quite open this year between us and probably Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps, as well as Emily Chan and Spencer Akira Howe. It will be a great battle, like in the Grand Prix Final.


Solène: Italy’s quota this year only allows for one pair. Your teammates Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini will, therefore, be unable to participate, despite their silver medal at the European Championships. How do you deal with this situation?

Niccolo: Last year, during the World Championships in Montpellier, we could have earned three spots easily, but we all had to withdraw! I had COVID, as well as Rebecca. A sick person in each pair... Having a single spot this year and going to Japan without Rebecca and Filippo is heartbreaking. To increase the quota to two, we will need to get into the top 10. It should be pretty straightforward . And for three, we would have to be on one of the first two steps of the podium. That will be complicated...


Par Solène MATHIEU pour Skate Info Glace