Lausanne, Switzerland

#GPFigure                     #FigureSkating

Italy’s Matteo Rizzo probably was already born with blades on his feet. He hails from a true skating family with his parents Brunilde Bianci and Valter Rizzo and his older sister Francesca being former competitive ice dancers. However, he did not only do figure skating as a child.

Matteo Rizzo(ITA)2018©International Skating Union(ISU) 930486292

Matteo Rizzo (ITA) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

“I tried different sports, I did soccer, swimming, basketball, tennis, I did a lot of sports. But in the end, I really enjoyed skating,” Matteo said. “I still remember, I was so excited to do my first (skating) competition. Then I decided, that is the role to take, just keep it. I was six years old at this competition. My mom was there with me, supporting me. She is always with me, in my heart. It’s easy when you have your family with you. I’m grateful for this.”

Matteo Rizzo(ITA) Valter Rizzo 2018©International Skating Union(ISU) 1052576996

Matteo Rizzo (ITA) with his father Valter Rizzo 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

Even though Rizzo’s parents are coaching and his father is part of his coaching team and usually travels with him to competition, the family life does not circle only around the sport. “Of course, when I come home after a competition, we talk about skating. My mom says ‘we can fix this and this and this’. It’s fine, it helps me a lot. But usually, during the time without competitions, we don’t speak about figure skating or if we speak about it, it’s just because we want to. I go to university, my sister works with dogs, so we can speak about other things,” the skater noted. He is in his first year of studies of sports and health science. “It’s going to be a long trip for me, because it’s three years until I graduate. But I enjoy it and it’s also going to help me in figure skating to know my body, to know what I can do and what I can’t do,” he explained.

Javier Fernandez(SPA)2018©International Skating Union(ISU) 907172514

Javier Fernandez (SPA) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

Matteo looks up to Spain’s Javier Fernandez. “I’ve known Javier Fernandez since I was a kid. I remember him in Italy when he was also working with my dad and Nikolai Morozov. He inspired me a lot, because he is not coming from a country where there are many champions. In Spain it’s only him,” the Italian pointed out. “He really did his career step by step. He is a six-time European Champion and a two-time World Champion and Olympic bronze medalist. He is amazing and he is really the skater that I want to be. It’s good that I know him, so I can ask him, ‘what can I do now’.”

Matteo Rizzo(ITA)FSWJC 2018©International Skating Union(ISU) 930066762

Artur Danielian (RUS) Alexey Erokhov (RUS) and Matteo Rizzo (ITA) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

Matteo recalls how Fernandez gave him advice, for example when he competed in his first ISU World Figure Skating Championship in Helsinki (FIN) in 2017. “I was with him before the short program and I went to him and said ‘I’m a little nervous, because it’s my first time’. He said ‘don’t worry. The first time is just one step to do and the next time will be easier.’ And that really helped me. He was World Champion and I thought, maybe I should listen to him.” 

Matteo, who this summer also trained in Italy and Russia with European silver medalist Dmitri Aliev (RUS), has worked up his way in the ranks and last March he became the first Italian male skater to win a medal at the ISU World Junior Championships, the bronze. Although he has competed at two World and European Championships and even at the Olympic Games, he only this season debuted at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating this year at Skate America in October.

Matteo Rizzo(ITA) Gala WJC 2018©International Skatin Union(ISU) 930486568

Matteo Rizzo (ITA) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

“My first Grand Prix in the USA was really interesting, because it was also my first competition in North America. I went to Taipei, but that was in the East, not in the West,” the 20-year-old said. “I really enjoyed it, because it was a really amazing crowd. The competition was so different from a Junior Grand Prix. There are only 12 skaters in the Men’s, not as many as you get in the juniors. It’s really tough to get one Grand Prix already, so I was lucky to get two. I worked hard for this. The difference is really the atmosphere. It’s a level up from juniors and I really liked it. I think this is the first step for every skater to grow up,” Matteo shared. “For every skater do the first Grand Prix is the first step to make a real senior debut. I did senior B events, but that is not the same. The Grand Prix is really interesting and I loved it.”

Matteo Rizzo(ITA)2018©International Skating Union(ISU) 1052577000

Matteo Rizzo (ITA) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

Rizzo placed a respectable fourth in his debut and he feels the Grand Prix is something special, even though he competed at senior-level Championships. “It’s a different circuit. I’ve never done it before. Also the name, like Skate America or NHK Trophy. These are names that I’ve heard for many, many years and that are really important. I remember when I was like eight or seven years old, and I heard my parents saying ‘today is Skate America, we’re going to watch it’ and I was saying, ‘mom, I want to do Skate America, too’ and now I’m here.”

Now the World Junior bronze medalist is going to compete at NHK Trophy in Hiroshima (JPN) this week. “I’ve never competed in Japan, it’s going to be my first time there. I heard that the crowd is amazing and to skate there is special. I’m really looking forward to go to Japan and compete there. It’s really important, when you go to Skate America or NHK Trophy, it means a lot for me and also for my family,” he said.

Matteo Rizzo(ITA)2018©International Skating Union(ISU) 930051832

Matteo Rizzo (ITA) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

Rizzo is always picking his music himself and he even cuts it himself. He is skating to a Rolling Stones Medley in the Free Skating this season. “Around April and May I’m always awake during the night, thinking and working hard on the music. After that, when I’m done, I know it’s the right music for me,” the Matteo pointed out. However, the Short Program this year is a little different as he and his team have asked a composer to write a special version of the song “Volare” for him. “We started working together to build the music for every part of the short program. It was very, very difficult, but at the first competition everybody said, it’s a nice program. I know we did a very good job with it and I enjoy it,” Matteo explained.

Matteo Rizzo(ITA)2018©International Skating Union(ISU) 929281464

Matteo Rizzo (ITA) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

The Italian Champion has set specific goals for himself for this season. “For the next Grand Prix (NHK Trophy) I want to skate two clean programs. Then I want to make the top five at the European Championships. That is the main goal. The World Championship will be again in Japan, in the Saitama Arena. I remember watching it, it was in Saitama (in 2014) and it was amazing. I need to be ready for that. The score, I don’t really care, I need to skate my best and then the score will come,” he said.

Three things Matteo would take if sent to an isolated island:

A lighter, a knife and a bottle of water