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Olympic Games 2022: Arianna Fontana breaks short-track records and increases tension with her federation

Even the queen of speed skating can find herself, like Bambi, on all fours on the ice. The scene takes place in the final of the 500m short-track (short-track speed skating) event at the Beijing Omnisports Palace on Monday, February 7. Arianna Fontana, reigning Olympic champion in the specialty, lost her balance on the first turn when her Dutch competitor, Suzanne Schulting, hit the blade of her right skate.

Fortunately for her, the rules provide in such cases to start the race again. A new start and four and a half laps later, the Italian crossed the line one blade ahead of a certain Suzanne Schulting.

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Eight-time Olympic medalist, from 2006 to 2018, Arianna Fontana added two new awards to her collection this winter in Beijing (silver in the mixed relay and therefore gold in the 500m). And it’s not over, because she is one of the favorites in the 1,500m, Wednesday February 16.

Two records bear witness to the work of a 1.64m giant: she is the most decorated athlete in her sport at the Winter Olympics and also the Italian who has won the most medals at the Olympic Games, tied with cross-country skier Stefania Belmondo. Precision : angelo biondo (“the blond angel”, in Italian), as she is nicknamed, is only 31 years old.

So, inevitably, we can’t resist the idea of ​​planning for the next Games which will take place partly in his native Lombardy, in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo. And we say to ourselves that the loop could not be better for this Italian who had already climbed on an Olympic podium in the relay at the Turin Games in 2006. She was then 15 years and 314 days old.

“It was not sure that I could train”

Back to the 500m finish line at the Beijing ice rink. Arianna Fontana clenches her fists and lets out an angry cry. It’s not (only) the relief to have snatched victory thanks to a sensational overtaking at three corners from the end. “I don’t usually shout, it was just a way to let all that anger out,” she explained after the race.

“The first season after Pyeongchang, there were male athletes targeting me on the ice, knocking me down” Italian short track speed skater Arianna Fontana

Then, Arianna Fontana threw a cobblestone on the ice: “If things don’t change, I won’t participate. [aux Jeux de] Milan-Cortina, in 2026, she said. I will not put myself, my coach or my family in the situation I have been in so far. »

The reasons for her anger, she detailed them at a press conference, almost as sharp as the blade of her skates. “My coach and I went through a lot of difficult situations, there were people who didn’t want us here and didn’t help us at all. The first season after [les Jeux de] Pyeongchang [en 2018]there were male athletes targeting me on the ice, knocking me down: it wasn’t sure if I could train [en Italie]. »

To prepare for the Beijing deadline, Arianna Fontana had gone into exile in Hungary with the American Anthony Lobello, himself a former speed skater who became her coach and also her husband. “I was lucky to have this person close to me when I needed them most. And I’ll never change that.” she confided in a video published on February 2 on the Youtube account of the Olympic Games.

Embarrassing subject

Are the criticisms of the one who had been the standard bearer of the Italian delegation to Pyeongchang proven? Did Arianna Fontana share her feelings internally? How did we get here ? Questions remain unanswered.

“We respect Arianna 100%, was content to declare the president of the Italian Ice Sports Federation, Andrea Gios, interviewed by the Italpress agency. She is a great athlete, it is a heritage of Italian sport before being that of our federation. We accept criticism from a champion of her level. »

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Still, on the side of the federation, the subject appears embarrassing. “I can’t talk about it. It’s too controversial.” short cut Ludovic Mathieu, a former tricolor Olympic athlete who now trains with the national transalpine team. But to the question of whether the queen of short-track did well to go into exile in Hungary to prepare for the Beijing Games, given her determination on the ice, the answer is affirmative.

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