Ice Network

Le Cru du Jour: Ice in Bordeaux is not so nice

Skaters get in training sessions at work-in-progress Meriadeck rink
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
French duo Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès will hope to impress in their home country at 2014 Trophée Eric Bompard. -Getty Images

Jean-Christophe Berlot checks in on the eve of 2014 Trophée Eric Bompard with updates on everything from the event's unique kiss and cry to the preparation of the ice itself.

Tumbling in the city of wine

Welcome to Bordeaux for the Trophée Eric Bompard! Yes, the Trophée is being held in one of the two main cities for wine in France, the other one being in Beaune, in Burgundy. The Trophée's venue, the Meriadeck ice rink, is right in the city center and holds a beautiful ice surface all year long. It's seating capacity was increased to accommodate 7,000 people for this event. We'll see how it fills in the days to come.

Lords of the Dance

The skating rink hosting the Trophée is a normal, full-time rink. However, its seating capacity and great acoustics make it one of Bordeaux's most coveted concert halls.

Wednesday night, the entrance of the rink was packed with people. They came to see the Lord of the Dance. The ice was fully covered by insulated wooden boards that were topped with 2,000 chairs in front of a brought-in stage.

"After the show, later tonight, the chairs, boards and stage will be taken away," the person in charge of security explained. "In the early morning, the ice will be redone to give it its luster back. And then, it will be skating's turn. We do that all the time, almost every day."

No way!

Several skaters did come to see the rink one day earlier.

"We've said no to all of them," the security officer said. "You are lucky -- you are the first and only one not to be denied entry here!"

What can you do? You feel ashamed, and then you give it a note on icenetwork!

Meriadeck: A name to remember

The funny name of the rink and nearby shopping mall comes from Prince Cardinal Ferdinand Maximilien de Rohan, who was the archbishop of Bordeaux in the 18th century. He built his palace in the area, and later gave it to the city. It is now the City Hall, where former Prime Minister Alain Juppé now sits as mayor. When wandering the city, you can hear expressions like, "This is Meriadeck!" which roughly translates to "This place is a mess" or "This place is like a zoo!" Please don't tell Ashley, she looks so classy!

Teamwork

The rink was still far from ready Thursday morning. France's Florent Amodio, Morgan Ciprès and Chafik Besseghier decided to take this extra time to play soccer outside of the rink. They used a small plastic ball and the hockey goal that had been taken away from the rink.

Icenetwork can report that Amodio is not the best goalie, while Ciprès excels at shooting clean and precise shots that beat Amodio each time. Besseghier catches balls wherever they go. Who said skating was not a team sport?

You said "Meriadeck?"

At 6 a.m. Thursday morning, around 50 people gathered at the rink. Not much had been done overnight.

"This is where we are going to skate?" whispered a skater who was finally let into the building in the morning. "This is all wood!"

The boards were indeed still on the floor, and the stage was still standing. Five hours later, the isolating boards were slowly taken away. The circular lighting ramp had just been placed over the ice, but the lateral ones were still being checked before being hooked upward.

"This is Meriadeck, then!" an official offered with a laugh. The first official training session, for the men, was scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m. Would you believe it? It started at 12:45. Those French...

Highfly ballet

Skaters were rehearsing their free skates in the early afternoon Thursday, but the rink was far from ready, and workers were still setting up judging tables and working on one of the lateral lighting ramps. About 10 feet above the ice, one of the workers was setting up some additional wires, balancing his agile body around the metal beams just under the roof of the building. Balance can be as vital a talent on the ice as in the air.

Upper kiss and cry

A first in Bordeaux: The kiss and cry area has been placed ... two floors above the ice, just in front of the bar.

"This is great," a skater suggested rather jokingly. "This way, we have the time to evacuate our frustration in the elevator before going there!"

Needless to say, they can definitely take out those frustrations in the bar behind later on.

Skating friendship

Training session after training session came and went Thursday afternoon in Bordeaux. The men started, followed by ice dance, then pairs and finally ladies. Each time a group was leaving the ice, the skaters took the time to alert the following group. 

"Watch out," they said. "The ice is so thin in some parts!"

They pointed to the end of the rink, close to the Zamboni exit, and the right corner.

"It's impossible for the throws," the Italian pairs skater Matteo Guarise explained.

"Some painting plates are coming out of the ice, and that opened the door to some, let's say, incongruous falls," added Ciprès, the French pairs champion. "This can be dangerous." 

"Your foot gets stuck as you land your jump," Alexa Scimeca confirmed. "And then you fall." 

Who said skaters only think about themsleves?

"No one wants to get hurt," concluded Dalilah Sappenfield, who coaches Scimeca and Chris Kierim.

Nightfall will be welcomed for its added preparation time before competition starts Friday afternoon.