Lausanne, Switzerland


Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA) WCSS Heerenveen2018©International Skating Union (ISU) 872909054

Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA) at the World Cup Speed Skating in Heerenveen (NED) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

She's won the overall Mass Start World Cup twice, she's European Mass Start champion and she participated in two Olympic Games, but as a native from Rome Francesca Lollobrigida still is an anomaly in the Speed Skating world. Having won multiple World titles in Inline Speed Skating, 'Lollo' feels most at ease in the Mass Start when she competes on ice, but this season she's set her mind to the so-called classical distances too. This season she took her career first World Cup medal in the 3000m, but it’s a steep learning curve. "I still miss the experience," she says.

Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA) WCSS Final Minsk 2018©International Skating Union (ISU) 933741420

Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA) at the ISU World Cup Speed Skating Final in Minsk (BLR) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

Lollobrigida was born and raised in Rome and Speed Skating is not the most obvious choice of sports in the Italian Capital. "No, it's not," she smiles.

"My father was an Inline Speed Skating World Champion and he put me on roller skates when I was just fourteen months old. After the Torino 2006 Olympic Games my father said we could also try it on ice. I was sixteen years old at the time."

Rome does not have an ice rink, therefore young Francesca had to travel up and forth to Baselga di Piné in northern Italy.

"I was still in high school. My father would drive 5-6 hours from Rome to Baselga after school on Friday. I used to skate on Saturday and Sunday and return home on Sunday night."

Meanwhile Lollobrigida was a successful inline skater, winning her first Junior World title in Cali (Colombia) back in 2007. Glandular fever kept her from competing at the highest level for almost three years, and when she returned to competition in 2011 lady luck still was not on her side.

"I was at the senior World Inline Championships in Korea and I felt good. At one of our training rides we passed by men at work and there was a cable across the road. At the moment I crossed it, the men pulled the cable up high. It must have looked like an accident in a cartoon movie. I crashed and injured my shoulder, resulting in three surgeries."

No setback could keep the dedicated Italian from realizing her dream however, and in 2012 she took her first two senior World Titles in Inline skating on home soil. Lollobrigida decided to return to the ice too.

"I knew Dutch people from inline skating and they told me to come to the Netherlands to do Marathon Skating on ice. I won my first Marathon race in 2012."

Like Inline skating, Marathon Skating on ice was not an Olympic event however, therefore Lollobrigida switched attention from Marathon to Long Track. In 2014 she came 23rd in the 3000m at her Olympic debut in Sochi. Combining Inline Skating, Marathon Skating and Long Track Speed Skating was difficult.

Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA) Mass Start WCSS Tomakomai 2018©International Skating Union (ISU) 1071715088

Mass Start at the ISU World Cup Speed Skating in Tomakomai (JPN) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

To Lollobrigida's delight the Mass Start was added to the Olympic Program for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

'I liked Marathon Skating because the race format was much like inline skating. Contrary to the classical long track Speed Skating, marathon skating is a bunch race and the Mass Start is a bunch race too."

Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA) WCSS Tomakomai 2018©International Skating Union (ISU) 1071694172

Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA), Ayano Sato (JPN), Kim Bo-Reum (KOR) and Melissa Wijfje (NED) at the ISU World Cup Speed Skating in Tomakomai (JPN) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

Lollobrigida became a specialist in the Mass Start events, collecting multiple World Cup medals and winning the Mass Start World Cup in 2014 and 2018. After becoming European Champion in January 2018, Lollo went to PyeongChang as one of the favorites for Olympic gold, but she ended up seventh.

Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA) WCSS Heerenveen 2018©International Skating Union (ISU) 1073811190

Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA) at the ISU World Cup Speed Skating in Heerenveen (NED) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

"I'm still angry about that race", she says.

"The Estonian girl (Saskia Alusalu) was ahead in a sole breakaway and nobody was doing anything. She almost lapped the pack and I was the first one to start chasing. If it would have been a World Cup race, I would have let her get away with it, but this was the Olympics… I'm pretty sure the others were looking at me to close the gap. Looking back, I'm still upset, but I learned a lot. I need to be smarter next time. That race made me stronger."

PyeongChang also taught Lollobrigida not to put all her eggs in one basket.


"The Mass Start is only one race and anything can happen. I'm happy that I improved a lot in the classical distances. I don't want to focus just on the Mass Start."

Experience is key in the classical distances, she states.

"Compared to the other skaters, I simply lack experience. I skate against girls who probably skated more than 200 races in classical distances in their lives and I did maybe 25 races in the 1500m.

"Bridging that gap is not easy. I need to work harder than the others. I'm happy to be top six in the 1500m and 3000m World Cup rankings at the moment. I already improved a lot, but I need to work on my technique and there is a big mental difference between bunch races and the time trial format in the classical distances. In bunch races you don't have time to think and there's always moments you can relax a little during a race. In the classical distances you have to do all those laps on your own and you can't relax at any moment. That's super tough.

Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA) WCSS Heerenveen 2018©International Skating Union (ISU) 1073812270

Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA) at the ISU World Cup Speed Skating in Heerenveen (NED) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

"This year I changed my mentality. Before I was less confident, I did not believe in myself as a Speed Skater. This year I decided to be a real Speed Skater and forget all the inline stuff when I'm on the ice."

After the disappointing Olympic Games Lollobrigida considered quitting ice skating altogether, but instead she decided to double down.

"I know I'm lucky to get paid for doing what I love most, and it's great to get the opportunity to travel a lot and learn about other cultures, but it's a hard life too. Being from Rome and living here in the Netherlands for half a year can be lonely. But I haven't given up before and there's still a lot I want to achieve."

Lollobrigida even bought a house in Heerenveen to create the perfect conditions to improve as a Speed Skater. She lives in the Netherlands with her younger sister Giulia, who's also competing in inline and ice skating. Being away from her family is a big sacrifice, which was dearly felt when her mother was diagnosed with cancer.

"The past two years, my mama was ill. It's very hard to be abroad for training when you know your mother is fighting for her life. She had surgery and chemo therapy, to which she appeared to be allergic. She made it through, but she was almost dead. A year after she had recovered, the cancer was back and it was the whole hospital cycle all over again. Those were tough times, but we're a strong family and my mother got better. She's all right now and that makes it easier for me to focus on my sport."

In 2019 Lollobrigida hopes to compete well in the ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships in Inzell this year, but in the long run she's set sights on the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games.

Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA) WCSS Tomaszow 2018©International Skating Union (ISU) 1071940854

Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA) at the ISU World Cup Speed Skating in Tomaszow 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

"The anger from PyeongChang has made me more focused on my goals. I'm lucky to be employed by the Italian Airforce. They pay me during my skating career and when I'm done I will get a job in the Airforce. I know that I'm not so young anymore and this gives me the opportunity to focus for another three years."

The next big race coming up for Francesca Lollobrigida is the ISU European Speed Skating Championships that will take place in Collalbo (ITA) from January 11 - 13, 2019. Don't miss it and take part in the action by joining us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.