Arianna Fontana
Getty Images

How Arianna Fontana quietly skated into short track history

Leave a comment

Arianna Fontana is silently one of the greatest short track skaters in Olympic history.

Her numbers at the Games speak for themselves; one gold, two silver, and five bronze. Those eight total medals make her the most decorated female short track skater by two medals, and tie her with legends Apolo Ohno and Viktor Ahn for most Olympic medals ever won by a short track skater.

But it is her numbers outside the Olympic stage that really call attention to her Olympic success. She is a 14-time world medalist, which is no small feat, but her podium appearances are spread over a 12-year competitive career. Someone like Elise Christie, for example, has won 12 world championships medals in just five years. And also unlike Christie, Fontana has never won an overall title.

But Christie struggled on the sport’s biggest stage in both Sochi and PyeongChang, and has yet to win her first Olympic medal. Fontana, on the other hand, has become such a consistent podium presence over the last two Games that she almost makes it look easy.

Before retiring from competition, Ohno won 21 world medals, eight of them gold. Ahn, still competing but not one of the athletes invited to competed at the PyeongChang Olympics as an Olympic Athlete from Russia, has to date has won 35 world medals, 20 of which were gold.

Fontana does not come from a short track power like South Korea or China, perhaps another reason why she is not more notorious.

Most of her medals are bronze, which could be used as a strike against her, but just ask Lindsey Vonn how hard she worked to get hers this year.

Fontana’s first medal came at the 2006 Torino Olympics, when she helped the Italian women to bronze in the 3000m relay at just 15 years old. Fontana earned her first individual medal, a bronze in the 500m, four years later in Vancouver.

But in Sochi, she exploded, making the podium in three out of four events: the 500m, where she won silver, and the 1500m and 3000m relay, where she picked up two more bronzes.

“I thought I was going to win a gold medal in Sochi but I still don’t have that,” Fontana said to the ISU in early 2017. “That’s there up in my mind and sometimes it comes out and says, ‘Hey, you still miss me? So come get me!'”.

But after the 2014-15 season, Fontana’s desire for gold was eclipsed by something else: burnout.

“I was pretty tired mentally. My body was ready to race again but my mind was not. It was hard for me. After the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, I had some doubts about whether to keep skating or not,” Fontana said to the ISU. “Maybe it would have been better to take that year right after the Olympic Games off, but I decided to keep going. It is not that I regret it, but I had some hard times that season.”

She stayed active during her time off, learning how to box, which eased the transition back to skating.

Her pursuit for gold was what motivated her comeback, and in 2018 Fontana got what she came back for.

“When I saw I was first, I was just yelling and started crying. I worked for four years and the last four months were really hard for me. I was really focused on getting here in the best shape ever,” Fontana said after earning the 500m Olympic title.

“I was chasing it and finally I got it.”

In addition to her 500m gold medal, Fontana also added a 1000m bronze and 3000m relay bronze.

Fontana has spoken about retirement, but has not made a definitive decision. She will only be 31 years old by the time 2022 rolls around, so she could feasibly add to her medal haul if she competes. What she has made clear is that when she does leave the sport she hopes to become a personal trainer.

Whenever she does retire Fontana should be considered not only one of the greatest Italian athletes or greatest short track skaters, but also one of the greatest Winter Olympians.

Anthony Lobello’s country switch a Winter Olympic first

Anthony Lobello, Ariana Fontana
Leave a comment

SOCHI, Russia — One U.S. short track speed skater from the 2006 Olympics made it back for 2014. He’s not wearing the red, white and blue this time, though.

In Sochi, Anthony Lobello will become the first athlete to compete in a Winter Olympics for the U.S. and then a later Winter Olympics for another nation, according to OlympStats.com.

As an American, Lobello finished 23rd in the 500m at the 2006 Olympics and then failed to make the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team.

In 2012, he began dating Italian Arianna Fontana, the 2010 Olympic 500m bronze medalist. Also that year, Lobello saw an opportunity to compete for Italy as a dual citizen since his paternal grandfather is Italian.

“I never looked into engaging my birthright, but I knew it existed,” Lobello, 29, told the Olympic News Service (ONS) in Sochi. “I never took it on as something I really wanted to do. But I met a girl, saw a different course for my life and took a chance.”

Lobello’s move also came as result of the “wild ride” relationship he had with US Speedskating that included suspensions, according to a blog post on his website.

Lobello’s surely much happier now, having proposed to Fontana at his family’s Alabama home last year.

“It was a little bit crazy, because that day I was cooking for the whole family,” Fontana told ONS. “So, I was nervous because I wanted to do great for them. While I was cooking, he was talking to me and said, ‘You know, when you find the right person, you don’t want to wait to spend the rest of your life with her.’

“I turned to listen to him, and he was on his knee with a ring. I didn’t know what to say, and the whole family started to yell and clap their hands. It was very exciting.”

Lobello’s love story is similar to that of snowboarder Vic Wild, who left the U.S. for Russia. Wild, though, did not reach the Olympics as an American before switching to Russia.

The three U.S. Winter Olympians who competed for other countries in previous Winter Games were, according to OlympStats:

Rena Inoue, figure skating (1992, 94-Japan, 2006-U.S.)
Clay Ives, luge (1994, 98-Canada, 02-U.S.)
Bengt Walden
, luge (1994, 98, 02-Sweden, 2010-U.S.)

On and off the ice, Jason Brown can put on a show