BEIJING (Reuters) -Arianna Fontana, the short track speed skater with most Olympic medals, threatened on Tuesday not to take part in her home Games in Milan and Cortina in 2026 if a dispute with the Italian skating federation is not resolved.
The 31-year-old, who made her Games debut in 2006 in Turin, has collected 10 Olympic medals after retaining her title https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/short-track-italys-fontana-takes-gold-womens-500-metres-2022-02-07 over 500 metres on Monday.
She trains in Hungary following a dispute with the Italian national skating federation, which opposes her choice of husband Anthony Lobello as coach, and accusations of aggression against her while training on ice.
“To be there (at the 2026 Games) as an athlete, some things have to change. I won’t put myself, my coach, my family in situations we have been in until now,” she said on Tuesday.
“I’m convinced of the choice I made years ago, wanting Anthony as my coach. Last night, in short, was evidence that the choice was the right one, the best one,” she told reporters.
After Monday’s victory, Fontana said she had not felt safe in Italy and her latest triumph provided a release of “rage”.
“Me and my coach, we had people who tried not to have us here, find ways to hurt us,” she told a news conference.
“The season after Pyeongchang, I had male athletes targeting me on the ice, made me fall, try to attack me every time they got a chance so it was not safe for me to stay with the team.”
‘GREATEST OF ALL TIME’
Fontana did not name the alleged aggressors and neither she nor her husband could be immediately reached for further comment.
The Italian Olympic Committee applauded her victory and said in an email to Reuters that all questions on her dispute with the federation would be answered after the Games.
Andrea Gios, president of the Italian ice sports federation, was quoted as saying by the Adnkronos news agency: “We do not intend to comment on the criticism of Arianna Fontana, in the sense that we are delighted with the result she has achieved and the splendid medal she has won, she is an extraordinary champion: from a champion of that level we accept all criticisms, and we do not intend to argue.
“We are her first fans, she has every right to criticise and we will calmly clarify things after the Games.”
Fontana, tied with former cross country skier Stefania Belmondo as the Italian athlete with most Winter Olympics medals, could add to her tally in Beijing in the 1,000 and 1,500 metres and the women’s 3,000 metre relay.
Her 10 medals are two more than retired male skaters Apolo Ono of the United States and Russia’s Viktor Ahn.
“Arianna you have entered the history books! You moved me. What suffering! I followed this final from my room, holding my breath, unable to be there, to be at your side, to rejoice and celebrate with you,” said Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago, in quarantine in Beijing with COVID-19.
“Coni (the Italian Olympic Committee) will always be at your side. Congratulations to Anthony and the Federation for what they have done in these four years of hard work. Arianna, you are the greatest of all time!”
Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office also lauded Fontana as a legend of Italian and global sport.
(Reporting by Emily Roe and Julien Pretot in Beijing;Additional reporting by Crispian Balmer in Rome; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Ed Osmond)