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Mother-of-two and sprint sensation Martina Valcepina will be the beating heart of an Italian team primed to exploit home advantage at this weekend’s ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating as the sport’s elite return to Torino for the first time in two years.

Martina Valcepina (ITA) ESTSS 2019©International Skating Union (ISU) 1080710198

Martina Valcepina (ITA) at the ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

The three-time European Champion is on sizzling form having utterly dominated the field in her favored 500m at the 2019 ISU World Cup Short Track stop in Dresden, Germany. It was a performance designed to inspire a squad full of talented Skaters fighting to establish themselves at the start of a new Olympic cycle.

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La prima vittoria in Coppa del Mondo di ISU Short Track non si scorda mai ???? È stata una giornata intensa e le sensazioni che ho provato ieri durante i 1500 mi hanno aiutata oggi nei 500. Sono felicissima ed emozionata per questo primo oro in Coppa del Mondo????Sicuramente non me l'aspettavo perché in questa stagione non ero ancora riuscita ad esprimermi al meglio. Sono riuscita ad avere il tempo migliore in semifinale e partire quindi dalla prima corsia in finale. Ho gestito tutte le gare da davanti e sono veramente molto contenta. In generale abbiamo anche raggiunto bei risultati come squadra. Nelle staffette c'è stata anche un po' di sfortuna, ma abbiamo sicuramente fatto tutti delle belle prove. Voglio dedicare questo successo alle mie bimbe e alle persone che mi sono state vicino in questi due giorni ???? Grazie Dresda, ci vediamo il prossimo weekend al PalaTazzoli di Torino ???????? Mi raccomando, vi aspetto numerosissimi ???? ???? Fiamme Gialle ❄️ FISG - Federazione Italiana Sport del Ghiaccio ???????? Italia Team

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“Being close with Martina motivates me to be as good as she is,” said the 25-year-old male Skater, Tommaso Dotti. “She is a champion. She has so much potential to be top in the 500m and every other distance. I want to be like here.

“She helps me, how she races compared to how she trains. She is not as good in training as she is in racing and that is so inspiring.”

Tommaso Dotti (ITA) ESTSS 2019©International Skating Union (ISU) 1080710696

Tommaso Dotti (ITA) at the ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

Dotti is part of an Italian Men’s 5000m Relay team on a mission at the season-ending World Cup.

“It’s been a long season but we still have the chance to do some good things. Our priority for the men – and for the Ladies too – is to qualify for the World Championships,” he said. “We are sixth right now (in the season-long standings) and the top eight go through (to March’s World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria).

“We have to get as far as possible without DQs (disqualifications) or penalties or anything. It is tough but I believe in us.”

Part of that belief comes from simply being back competing on Italian soil for the first time since the 2017 ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships.

Shaolin Sandor Liu (HUM) Tommaso Dotti (ITA) ESTSSC 2019©International Skating Union (ISU) 1083131342

Shaolin Sandor Liu (HUM) and Tommaso Dotti (ITA) at the ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

“Torino has always brought us good luck,” Dotti laughed. “We won the relay bronze in the Europeans and also in the Olympic qualifications in 2013, before Sochi (2014 Olympic Games), we got fourth in the A final and that was very important for us to get enough points to go to the Olympics.”

For Dotti, who made his debut on the World Cup circuit in 2010, the Relay has always been central and never more so than now, at the start of a new Olympic cycle.

“We have changed a couple of people in the team since PyeongChang,” he explained. “There are more youngsters coming up and I think we have a good chance to improve in the future which for sure keeps me motivated to continue.”

With his dad working as a crowd announcer in Torino – “I’m expecting a lot of noise,” he laughed – and his mum as a competitor steward and a key part of the local organizing committee, it will certainly feel like home for Dotti in the Tazzoli Ice Rink.

For Valcepina the sense of home will be even more pronounced. The 26-year-old will have her four-year-old twin daughters cheering her on in Torino.

“They know what I do, they have started realizing that mummy is a champion,” Valcepina said. “They love wearing my medals. For sure I am racing for them now.”

Martina Valcepina (ITA) Kathryn Thomson (GBR) ESTSSC 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)   1083131192

Martina Valcepina (ITA) Kathryn Thomson (GBR) at the ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

Valcepina is making the role of mother and elite-level athlete look easy – she currently sits third in the season-long 500m World Cup standings and last month won silver in the 500m at the ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships. But in reality, it is extremely tough to combine the two.

“It is very hard for me to do both,” she said. “I spend less time than the rest of the team in Courmayeur (the national training base) – and when I do come I live in a separate house with the children and most of the time one of my parents or both so they can help out when I train.

“When I am at home, then that’s it, I am just at home. It means my training is more intense.”

From the outside, Dotti can hardly believe how his teammate does it.

“She is very impressive,” he explained. “With all the time she spends with her kids, I know how draining it is. They are beautiful kids but they are kids, and there are two of them and they fight and it’s hard for her to rest. Everyone else has more time to focus only on the sport.”

Martina Valcepina (ITA) WCSTSS GER 2019©International Skating Union (ISU) 1127190644

Martina Valcepina (ITA) at the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating (GER) 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

One Italian Skater who will not be competing with Dotti and Valcepina in Torino is eight-time Olympic medallist Arianna Fontana. The 28-year-old, who won 500m gold at PyeongChang 2018 making her the most-decorated female Olympic Short Track skater of all time, has taken a break from the sport.

“It does feel strange to be competing without Arianna,” Valcepina said. “But we have a great atmosphere in the squad right now. Everyone is really close on the ice and off the ice. It’s good, we hope to keep it up.”

Tune in on Saturday and Sunday to see if Valcepina, Dotti and co can stir up that boisterous home crowd and deliver some wildly popular Italian success.