EXCLUSIVE: Romani figure skater Ivan Righini, three-time Italian champion, competes for the European Championship
The 2016 European Figure Skating Championships begin today in Bratislava, Slovakia. At 17:30 CET, Ivan Righini, a figure skater with Italian, Romani and Russian roots, will compete for Italy in the men's short program with the starting number of 28.
The young figure skater is not yet 25 years old, but he has won the Italian championship three times. Ivan Righini (born 1991) comes from Moscow, where he was born Ivan Vadimovich Bariev.
He took his mother's maiden name when he began to represent Italy in 2013. Righini spent his early childhood in Italy, then moved to Moscow at the age of six, where he began to dedicate himself to figure skating at his mother's instigation.
He successfully represented Russia in junior competitions there. In 2007 Righini underwent an operation on the meniscus of his right knee and suffered a back injury.
In 2011 he earned his first international medal (a bronze at the Golden Spin competition in Zagreb, Croatia). Since 2013 he has represented Italy, first competing for that country at the Merano Cup in 2013, where he took fifth place, and then winning the bronze that year again at the Golden Spin in Zagreb.
Righini has been the Italian figure skating champion for the last three years in a row. He represented Italy at the 2014 World Championship in Saitama, Japan, where he came in 13th place, came in fourth place at the 2014 Challenge Cup, and came in first place at the 2014 Bavarian Open.
At the Challenge Cup in the Hague at the beginning of 2015 he won gold and set a new personal record with a score of 226.95. In November 2015 in Beijing he began the 2015-2016 season in 10th place for the Chinese Championship, where he scored 200 points overall.
His role models in figure skating are Alexei Yagudin, Stéphane Lambiel and Patrick Chan. Righini used to train with Nikolai Morozov and Oleg Vassiliev, but currently is training with Michael Huth in Oberstdorf, Germany.
The Italian media consider Righini one of their greatest hopes for the next Olympics. He is a college graduate in physical education and also drama. He wants to become a professional choreographer in the future; his brother Filip, who is 10 years younger, plays basketball in Germany.
The Bariev family is also involved at the international level on the issue of the rights of Romani people in Russia. News server Romea.cz has conducted this exclusive interview with Righini:
Q: What does figure skating mean to you?
A: For me it's a way to bring joy to the people around me, my family, my fans and my friends. I can work on myself every day, invent something new, see what my body is capable of. I want to improve from year to year, to achieve better results and to captivate everyone who follows me during competition - mainly the judges:). In short, I do crazy things, I'm glad when I can make people laugh. Figure skating is my life.
Q: You have been skating since the age of six, you train every day, and you are a college graduate. You have also grappled with health problems. What motivates you to continue with competing?
A: As I said, I love figure skating. I know I lost a lot of time becuse of my injuries, I was not able to skate then. However, on the other hand, I feel like I'm 21 even though I'm 24. I am certain my potential has not yet fully developed. I seek my motivation in myself, I am motivated by the aims I have set for myself. My family and friends encourage me.
Q: Are you happier when you succeed in making a perfect quadruple jump, or when you perform an original element, when you are the first to bring something from the dance floor to the ice?
A: I would like to make those quadruples and get the highest possible score, but it is just as important for me to deliver interesting programs. That's what's special about it, every year it is possible to make up something new on the ice, mostly as far as steps are concerned.
Q: How do you choose the music that accompanies your competition programs?
A: Most of the time, naturally, I decide on that together with my trainer, and I also ask my family and friends their opinion, but mainly I must feel that the music is "it". I know "my" music because it sparks a special feeling inside me.
Q: How did you get the nickname "Gypsyking"?
A: I am actually Romani, I don't have that nickname for nothing! My best friend Nikita Katsalapov [Editor's Note: The Russian representative in ice dancing who won the bronze at Sochi] began calling me that and it stuck. People around me, my fans and friends, began to call me that, and even the figure skating federation began to use it. It's super to be "Gypsyking". I am the only figure skating "Gypsyking" in the world:)!
Q: What is your relationship to your Romani identity?
A: My family observes some traditional Romani customs and my father taught me to speak Romanes. I can feel my Romani roots in my current lifestyle - for example, the feelings that music awakens in me - and also because whenever I become inspired about something, I go into it head first. Once I get something into my head, then nothing can stop me.
Q: How do the media and the public accept your Romani roots? Does your nickname prompt astonishment or questions?
A: Considering that new fans from all over the world are following me every month, I believe people like me and the "Gypsyking "nickname. For them I am probably something like the Michael Jackson of the figure skating world:). I am very proud to have such a cool mix of Italian, Romani and Russian nationality.
Q: Have you ever met anyone from the Czech Republic?
A: I have known Karel Zelenka a long time [Editor's Note: The Italian figure skating champion for the 2002/3 and 2006/7 seasons] and Michal Březina, Tomáš Verner and others are among my good friends. Thanks to figure skating I have many friends from all over the world, I pride myself on being on good terms with the people I meet.
Q: What are your future ambitions?
A: To win an Olympic medal at the games two years from now in South Korea. That is my aim.
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