Ice Network

Le Cru du Jour: Meriadeck ice transforms overnight

Skaters greeted by enthusiastic school children; Rippon proud of Wagner
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Adam Rippon proudly watched Ashley Wagner's 'Spartacus' short program Friday, a routine he choreographed. -Getty Images

Jean-Christophe Berlot checks in from Day 1 of competition at the 2014 Trophée Eric Bompard, touching on a variety of subjects, including the ice rink's improved condition.

Good news, the ice was safe again!

On Thursday evening, as more and more skaters took the ice, the worse the rink's conditions became. Friday morning, however, the ice seemed to be in much better shape after a full night's work on the rink.

"This rink is mainly a hockey rink," the general manager of the arena explained. "During the night, from Sunday to Monday, we took the ice sheet partly off and painted it, so as to remove the hockey lines. Then, we covered the whole for our two concerts."

"Yesterday, when it was uncovered again, the men started off with their toe picks and that did damage to the ice on some spots. It worsened all evening long. Last night, however, we watered the rink layer by layer, and eventually added more than half an inch to it." 

Friday morning, the Zamboni machine could be seen circling the ice every 10 minutes to smooth it out. Unsurprisingly, and even before wishing good morning to anyone, each skater coming into the rink inspected the ice. It was excellent all day.

Children awed by practice sessions

Entire classes of school children were invited to come watch the training sessions in Bordeaux. Skaters could certainly feel rewarded with their reactions. Each spin drove "waaas," each jump "woos." The biggest response may have been from Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue's beautiful handstand lift, which became a instant hit with the children.

"I love it!" Hubbell said afterward. "We could have done that lift throughout our training session -- they would have loved it!"

Children are quick to enthuse, and they are also quick to recognize what is unique.  

Master and pupil at the same time

Friday morning, Adam Rippon was warming up in what has been dubbed the "warm-up room," close to the kiss and cry -- and, of course, to the bar. There was no skater there, though. I checked. From there, he could watch Ashley Wagner practice her short program to Spartacus. "His" own creation.

"Yes, it's cool!" he said with a smile. "I am here as a competitor, and I have choreographed a piece myself. I like it," he offered with the kind and genuine humility that is the trademark of a true creator.

An Olympic gold medalist's humility

From their world gold medal in 2003 to their Olympic gold medal in 2010, Hongbo Zhao and his partner, Xue Shen, have been followed by flows of supporters chasing after autographs from the champions.

Zhao has returned to the competitive rink as a coach. He is successfully leading the two Chinese pairs in Bordeaux, and both skated flawlessly during their short programs. Four years have passed since the team's Olympic glory, and no one was chasing after Zhao's autograph anymore. It seemed as if he was hiding in the corridors of the rink, trying to not show any emotion, aside from his trademark big smile.

"We are shy because we are Chinese, and also because in figure skating you have to be shy," Cong Han explained very seriously a few minutes after he and his partner, Wenjing Sui, had perfectly skated their lively "Stray Cat Strut" short program.

Who was more tired?

Even though he can speak English, Tatsuki Machida, the Japanese champion, came to the press conference with his interpreter. He was the last of the top-three skaters to enter the press conference room.

Machida's interpreter ran with him to make the press conference, but she did not share the skater's physical condition. She needed quite some time to find her breath again after running across the stairs and corridors of Mériadeck.

So as a result, journalists listened to Machida commenting about how tired he felt at the end of his program in a perfectly relaxed Japanese, and then received the English version of it with deep breaths in between each word. Interpreters can be very authentic sometimes.

Spanish music on the rise!

Is it because the ISU chose the paso doble as the compulsory part of the short dance this year? Or is it because the Grand Prix Final is going to take place in Barcelona, Spain, for the first time? Is it because Javier Fernández' well-known charm over the skating world is starting to resonate?

In any case, many competitors have chosen to skate to Spanish music this year, even those not in ice dance. In fact, Spanish music has been the most-played genre in the rink so far. Even the 15 year-old Elena Radionova, the Russian phenom, has chosen a flamenco theme! 

Jumping rooms

In every country of the world, naming rooms and buildings and streets is always a political issue. Giving the name of a person to any place means others will be jealous for forever seeing that name, and not their own.

At the Mériadeck rink, the problem has been solved easily. Each meeting room bears the name of a skating jump. The door to the press conference room is posted with a "FLIP" sign. The door next to it is the "AXEL." I have not found the "LOOP" and the "LUTZ" yet, though. I'll try to see if similar rooms exist at the different levels of the building, like single Axel on the first floor and triple Axel on the third floor. I'll keep you posted.