Ice Network

Tapas Grandes: Bilodeau's mustache short-lived

'Bern syndrome' in full effect in Barcelona; Yuzu mimics Javy's choreo
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Charlie Bilodeau's mustache -- which is barely visible in this zoomed-out photograph -- did not make it to the free skate. -Getty Images

Jean-Christophe Berlot's notes from Friday at the Grand Prix Final include an examination of Charlie Bilodeau's short-lived mustache as well as one reporter's inventive way of combating the chilly conditions at the Barcelona International Convention Center.


The good thing about an audience discovering a new sport is that enthusiasm is soon to erupt. The arena was full Thursday night as the senior pairs took the ice. Their warm-up period was a moment of awe. Each throw jump was welcomed with "Ooohs" from all around the rink. "I was so nervous during warm-up," Canada's Meagan Duhamel said after her and Eric Radford's winning short program, "And when they called our name, the audience started to cheer so much that I felt like I was at home in Canada. Here, they don't see a lot of skating, so I think it helped." Javier Fernández, the "homeboy" who was instrumental in Spain getting this Final, may be right: If his home audience catches on to skating, it will be here to stay!

Sun and stars rising in Barcelona

If you go past the skaters' official hotel and the convention center, the horizon suddenly becomes clear. You soon discover that beyond a couple of small amusement parks lays the Mediterranean Sea itself. Sea and skies were clear and calm this Friday morning, as the junior ice dancers were practicing for their free program. The press room is located above the sea, facing the east. It welcomed the sunrise around 8 a.m. In a matter of hours, the rink downstairs will be like the beaches of Barcelona this morning, as it will welcome the rising stars of skating.

Morning jog

Skaters now seem to have found a way to circle the endless corridors of the Barcelona International Convention Center. Whether the path they've decided to take is a sign of their frame of mind is still difficult to say. Elena Radionova chose the longest and crookedest way, alternating rooms and turns and corridors, whereas Hao Zhang just jogged along the walls, from one corridor to the next. What can be said for sure is that their speed is a sign. Thursday morning, Zhang was found jogging along with teammates Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin. Zhang ran the whole lap in less than a minute, more than 20 seconds faster than his counterparts.

Like a crane on frozen waters

No, this is not the theme of a skating program, or the title of a movie that inspired a skater. This is a real mechanical crane. It even states on the side: "Crane." It's standing right in front of the press tribune. It was set up Wednesday night. It will carry the traveling camera television uses to add movement and depth to the scene it is shooting. So while the skaters are circling the ice, the crane is going up and down in front of journalists' eyes. Please excuse them if they report a triple flip instead of a Lutz -- the crane might have interfered with the edge!

Charlie Bilodeau's mustache

Junior pairs skater Charlie Bilodeau, from Canada, stands in first place with his partner, Julianne Séguin, after a stellar performance to The Grand Hotel Budapest soundtrack. Those who know Bilodeau well were stunned to see him reach the Final with a mustache under his nose. A real mustache in the junior category! Needless to say, Bilodeau's mustache was an instant hit with the audience as well. "I decided to let it grow for the purpose of this program, in order to better play the character," Bilodeau admitted afterward. "I can tell you one secret, if you're interested," Bilodeau continued, laughing. "It's my real mustache, but I needed to color it a bit to make it visible, because it grew blond, although my hair is brown. I still need to mature a bit!" Even though it suited him well, Bilodeau's mustache was not there to last, however. "Tomorrow, it's gone!" he concluded.

A sheikh reports on skating

The convention center of Barcelona brings back memories of what skating veterans now call "the Bern syndrome," in reference to the 2011 European Championships that took place in the Swiss state capital. There, skaters and officials discovered that the rink was vulnerable to strong and freezing winter winds. In Barcelona, the ventilation is so strong that it brings a constant chill from the roof, especially when the audience is scarce, like in the morning practice sessions. Coaches, who have to stay along the boards, also confirmed that it was really cold out there (although skaters did not complain, as they had in Bern). One journalist found a way to combat the cold: He put his red pullover above his head and then put his white and blue coat above that, looking like an oil sheikh from Arabia. He was an instant hit in the press stand. No doubt that he loved the short program Cheng Peng and Zhang skated to Tchaikovsky's "Arabian Dance" at about the same time.

Photographers' positions, day 2

Photographers did learn their lesson. Now they leave their signs in a real line in front of the press room desk. Friday morning you could find: a backback, a computer, three similar signs (certainly belonging to Japanese photographers; only they would be able to recognize which one was whose), two (full) bottles of water sitting on an event program, three different purses, a hat, a thermos, another computer, two different camera stands, a bag and a backpack. Reporter Sandra Stevenson followed the line to the coffee table, on the other side of the wall. "That must be a path to follow!" she said, laughing. Photographers are also more numerous than they were yesterday. The pressure is building…

Yuzudez and Fernanhyu

Yuzuru Hanyu and Fernández are used to sharing the same practice ice (and same coach, as Brian Orser explained to icenetwork Thursday night), both at home in Canada and in competition. While Fernández was practicing his free skate, Hanyu was watching his training mate with Orser from the boards. Fernández was not faring too well at that point of his program. When the lyrics of Fernández' music, Rossini's Barber of Seville, exclaimed "Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!" both Orser and Hanyu shook their head between their hands, watching upward, as if they were exchanging some secret sign. "Yuzu knows every one of Javier's steps and mimics -- just like Javier knows most of Yuzuru's programs, actually," Orser explained. "So, at times, we have fun doing his choreography, and that seemed appropriate, as Javier's program was not going too well." This one could have been titled "Figaro! Figaro! Figaro! Oh no…"