Lausanne, Switzerland

“The #OneGoodThing is of course that we can still do what we love,” says Francesca Lollobrigida (ITA) with a melancholic smile. “We were lucky to skate here outside with a pretty view in Baselga di Piné. Last week we had snow, but now the weather has come around nicely.” The 2018 ISU European Mass Start Speed Skating Champion had to postpone all her ambitions professionally and privately, due to COVID-19 restrictions in 2020.

Lollobrigida had planned to marry her fiancée in September. “During the quarantine we couldn’t plan anything because the church couldn’t hold any marriage celebrations. Eventually we decided to postpone the wedding until 3 July next year. I definitely hope it will be on, I already got my dress.”

Another big disappointment last summer was the postponement of the World Championships Inline Skating in Colombia, where she had won her first Junior World title in Inline Skating back in 2007. “For Inline Skating Colombia is what Heerenveen is for Speed Skating, the place to be. I really wanted to skate my last Inline World Championships there, but now it’s been postponed to September next year and that interferes with my preparations for qualification races for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.”

Last summer Lollobrigida signed a contract with a new team in Dutch marathon Speed Skating. She was happy to have been able to train on the ice in Thialf in August and September, but after she returned to Italy in October skating was put on hold for a while. “Everything was blocked again in Italy. I’m also in the military so I have to obey the rules even more strictly than anyone else and I really wasn’t allowed to go anywhere. The Baselga rink only opened in November, so that’s when we were able to get back on the ice.”

Despite the disappointment of not being able to skate in competition, Lollobrigida feels blessed to be able to skate anyway. “As professional athletes we have special permits to train. We’re in a kind of a bubble. We’re checked very thoroughly when we get to the rink every day and we have to undergo a Covid-test three times a week. It’s not the way you would like it to be, but still we are the lucky ones out. I can imagine that many people are jealous.”

While Italy is divided in zones with different clearance levels, Lollobrigida is allowed to travel to Rome for Christmas and return to Baselga afterwards. Looking forward to January she desperately hopes to be able to race internationally again. “We don’t know how everything’s going to play out, whether we’ll be allowed to travel to the Netherlands now that it’s gone back into a stricter lockdown as well. For a top athlete it’s difficult to prepare for competition when you’re not even sure whether it will we held. That’s the same for all skaters. I surely hope to be able to compete in Heerenveen in January.”