Ice Network

Joubert: 'I need to leave the ice to younger ones'

French skater excited to return to site of first European title
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A 19-year-old Brian Joubert displays his gold medal from the 2004 European Championships in Budapest. -Getty Images

The French star skater has started practicing in Budapest, the city that led him to his first international gold medal, at the 2004 European Championships. The city remains a great memory for Brian Joubert. He has decided to arrive in Budapest with a completely renewed arsenal -- two new programs, no less. Prior to skating his new short program Thursday afternoon, he agreed to answer icenetwork's questions.

Icenetwork: So, you are back in Budapest, 10 years after your first European gold medal, almost to the day. How do you feel?

Joubert: Excellent, I have to say.

Icenetwork: Can you relate to some feelings you had back then?

Joubert: This is strange, actually. The 2004 arena was the main arena of Budapest, and it was much bigger than the Syma centre. But we were staying at the same hotel and practicing at the same practice rink. Ten years have passed by. Still, I do not feel lost. When I arrive in a place I do not know, I need some time to find my own references -- not this time. I feel the same as back then. Especially in the practice rink, I can see again all those places where Evgeni Plushenko and I were fighting like hell!

Icenetwork: Evan Lysacek has given up the idea of a comeback, and Evgeni may even risk his own life to come back, given the amount of metal and plastic he has in his spine. How does it feel to be the last one of an era?

Joubert: I feel blessed, really, to still be skating. Even more than that, I consider myself as being in good health. I have some pain here and there, I feel my back and my hip, and age has taken its toll. Yet I have never had to undergo surgery and do not plan to. This is very important for me. Skating is essential to my life, as is sport in general, yet it is not my whole life.

Icenetwork: Your absence from the Grand Prix was quite a disappointment for your numerous fans around the world. What did you tell them?

Joubert: First that I, myself, was very disappointed not to go to Skate America and to Cup of Russia. Skate America was the first victory in the Grand Prix of my career, and I really was looking forward to seeing the American audience again and skating for them. Cup of Russia was the Grand Prix where I landed my three quads, and there, again, it would have been nice to end my Grand Prix career there.

Also, I really disappointed my fans. I felt so sorry for all those who had made arrangements to see me skate. I must say that I feel extremely grateful to my fans: As disappointed as they were, I did not receive any criticism from them. I even received many words of encouragement, since people understood it was the decision of the French federation, not mine.

This season is quite funny, really, with Budapest being the venue for the Europeans, 10 years after my first title! Also, if you look at it, worlds are in Tokyo, where I won worlds in 2007. This season looks like a tribute to my whole career, in a way!

Icenetwork: Do you plan to skate in Tokyo?

Joubert: No, I won't. I need to leave the ice to younger ones. I am not part of the best skaters anymore, and my time is over.

Icenetwork: What makes you feel so?

Joubert: I can still do some good things -- I may create a surprise some day -- but I am all too conscious that I am behind all these up-and-coming youngsters; they are incredible. They have an energy and charisma which I do not have anymore. Also, the more you age, the more you think; they don't. And, of course, I can feel that I am 29! Finally, the younger skaters have always grown up with the IJS (international juding system). I have not had that. I am one of the oldest skaters to have skated in both systems. I must say that I have the old system still inside my body and legs. It was even a great chance that I could win a world title under the IJS!

Icenetwork: What about your jumps?

Joubert: That may be the one area where I still feel strong. I have no complex on my jumping abilities. Last week, for instance, I landed a clean quad Salchow, a jump I had not been practicing for about one year. I am far from being ridiculous on my jumps, fortunately.

Icenetwork: You have always promoted skating as a sport. Now that jumps are improving again, are you happy about the direction male figure skating is taking?

Joubert: Very much so. Figure skating is taking the direction I was striving for. I felt so bad in 2008 or 2009. Skating is a sport. Sport is a matter of taking risks, of going always beyond your own capabilities and of performing higher difficulties. Can you believe that during these Europeans two skaters are going to go for three quads in their free program? Two different quad jumps is becoming a norm. It pleases me tremendously, because it has always been a cause for me. It was worthwhile.

Icenetwork: You are just coming back from a 10-day working session with Nikoli Morozov. Why this collaboration so close to the Games?

Joubert: I wanted to discover something else and work differently. I had asked to work with him last June. He had answered no then, and I fully respected his decision, because at the time he was coaching Florent Amodio, my strongest competitor in France. Then Florent left Nikoli, and Nikoli came to me. He told me that he could help me.

Icenetwork: So how did it work?

Joubert: Well, I showed him my two programs and asked him to help me improve them. Well, his answer was no again! [He laughs.] Meanwhile, he was making me listen to some music, always the same music. Then I started to guess that he had something in mind. He was simply asking me to change my short program. Actually, he wanted me to change both programs. That time I was the one to decline. I may have quite some experience now, but I would not change two programs at the same time. Anyway, I agreed to change my short program. I trusted Nikoli, on the basis that he had been quite good with me in the past. Well, I am going to skate that program for the first time tomorrow. I like it very much. It has some rhythm, and it is fun to skate. I love the step sequence, too. My previous short to tango music may have been too serious for me. A short program is like an exhibition for me. I skate it also as an entertainment piece! Technically, I feel good. I have no clue whether I will skate well tomorrow, but it's not that important. My goal is Sochi.

Icenetwork: In addition, you had already changed your free program quite recently, just at the end of the Grand Prix Series?

Joubert: That's right! I had decided to leave my free program to Gladiator, although my original plan was to keep it for the Olympic season. I created a new free to Rodrigo's famous "Concierto de Aranjuez." I have skated it twice only so far: once in Dortmund and once at French nationals. I love this music, and I feel good skating to it. When I skated to it in Vaujany (at the French championships), I had goose bumps. I can tell you that this does not happen very often to me. [He thinks a little.] Yes, I can be emotional at times! These nationals were full of emotions for me, even though I did not win the title. (Joubert won the free portion of the event.)

Icenetwork: Do you think you will keep it for Sochi?

Joubert: Nikoli does not like this program. He thinks it lacks some depth; he finds it is "flat" -- at least for a guy like me. He already had an idea when I was working with him. When he arrived here, he told me that he had found the right music for me.

Icenetwork: Do you plan to accept his offer this time?

Joubert: Yes, I think so. I will let him do what he thinks. You cannot be always trying to defend and protect what exists against what could be. You cannot mistrust everyone all the time. That's my last straight line, as a 400-meter track runner would say, so let's have fun!

Icenetwork: What are you expecting for Sochi then?

Joubert: I have never skated well at the Olympics. I would like to skate two good performances in Sochi and really do my job. Even though I do not consider myself as one of the very best, I know that I can always create a surprise. There are 10 contenders for the Olympic podium. I consider myself as being one of them.

Icenetwork: How do you consider the Olympic team event, which France has qualified for?

Joubert: I should be part of it, and I will certainly share responsibilities with Florent. I do not know which part I will skate, however. Anyway, I will commit to what the French federation decides. What I regret, however, is that it takes place before the individual events. For us skaters, a team competition is naturally less important, because it's not what we are training for all year long. Each skater or team will be willing to save some energy for his own individual competition.

Icenetwork: Do you see a chance for France to medal?

Joubert: Of course the French team can medal! I have to say that I have always been lucky team-wise. Each time I skated for our team, I skated well. I would never want to be the one who makes the team fail. I would really feel too bad!

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