When the Finnish Figure Skating Association (FFSA) set its focus on developing the ice dance program at the Helsingfors Skridskoklubb, Finland’s only ice dance club, one major question had to be addressed. Who would they hire to run the program?
Susanna Rakhamo, a former World ice dance medalist and the current FFSA chairperson, approached her good friend Maurizio Margaglio, an eight-time Italian ice dance champion (with Barbara Fusar-Poli).
Rakhamo did not think Margaglio would be willing to leave sunny Milan to work in Finland but decided to approach him nonetheless. “It never hurts to ask,” she said with a laugh. “Here in Finland we thought that no one would want to come this far north, but we discovered that is not true.
The offer came out of the blue and was one Margaglio, the 2001 World and European champion, never expected. “To be honest, I was surprised when Susanna called. So I asked for some time to think about this, because I have many projects going on, and of course I had to ask my wife her opinion,” he said.
“My wife said, ‘Go for it. I will follow you wherever you decide to go.’
“So I called Susanna back and said, “Yes, let’s do this. I’m ready. This will be a great adventure for all of us.’”
Margaglio immediately embraced the challenge and began formulating a plan to make it all happen. “I want to get more out of the Finnish skaters,” he said. “They think that they are already doing it big, but you can always do it bigger and better. I want the skaters to get more speed without them showing it.
“We missed one season of this Olympiad, but I’m not worried. We still have time,” he added. “This is a test, but there’s no limit. At the moment, we have two senior, junior and novice couples. I hope that we can build up one couple more before next season.”
Rakhamo could not be happier. “Maurizio has started his work with great enthusiasm,” she said. “Our goal is to put ice dance back in the headlines and send a dance team to the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Three years is a short period, but we believe we can do a lot. Everyone is ready to work hard and support each other.
“For Maurizio it is a great opportunity to show what kind of coach he is and what he can do with our young skaters.”
The initial opportunity presented to Margaglio evolved, and set him on a path he never envisaged.
Following the birth of her son, Emil, in May 2010, Kaisa Nieminen, head coach of the Helsinki-based synchronized skating team the Rockettes, knew she would need help preparing for the 2011 World Synchronized Skating Championships.
Rakhamo recommended Margaglio to Nieminen. He initially spent a week in Helsinki working with the team, but returned many times throughout the year to work on the programs.
It did not take him long to find a common ground with the team. “After my second day with the Rockettes, Kaisa asked me if I could be involved in the choreography as well,” Margaglio recalled. “I’m so lucky. This is a great sport and I was lucky enough to start directly at the top.”
Despite his lack of experience in the synchro world, Margaglio said he related to the challenge through his ice dance background. “To achieve the best score the team has to skate as one, and they do. It’s unbelievable,” the 36-year-old explained.
He works closely with Nieminen, who choreographs the programs and designs the elements. Margaglio focuses on transitions and the way the team moves through the elements. He brings his own flavor to the programs and in the end it is hard to say who created what. “I’m like the glue,” he said with a smile.
The Rockettes’ golden moment at the 2011 World Synchronized Skating Championships is just the beginning, Margaglio said. “The team performed their short to ‘Brazilian Carnival,’ but the theme of the free program to ‘Heaven or Hell’ was much more dramatic. Each year, they have to bring something new to the sport and refresh it.”
Rockettes captain Kristina Herbert said the team members love Margaglio’s input. “The best part is definitely how Maurizio gives everything he has and really gets into it,” Herbert said. “We really enjoy working with him.”
The general consensus is that this is a very positive move for the advancement of skating in Finland. Everyone considers Margaglio a very nice man, who gets along well with everyone.
In April, he signed a three-year contract to develop the ice dance program. The Finnish Olympic Committee threw its support behind the concept and committed to assist financially. He was subsequently appointed to the position of Olympic Youth Coach.
Margaglio and his young family will make the full-time move to Helsinki this summer. “We have two little boys,” he said. “Gabriel will turn 4 in July, and Sebastian will celebrate his second birthday in August. It is a very exciting opportunity for all of us.”
Originally published in August 2011