Ice Network

You raise me up: Skaters share inspirational stories

Péchalat shared ice with French greats; Many exposed to sport through TV
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Nathalie Péchalat says that training alongside accomplished skaters early on in her career played a big role in her development as a competitor. -Getty Images

We asked skaters to tell us about inspirational people and moments that have stood out over the course of their careers in figure skating.

Nathalie Péchalat

"What inspired me most was not watching the greatest skaters on TV -- it's been training with them during summer camps. My parents always sent [me and my partner, Fabian Bourzat] to skating camps in the summer -- we were so lucky! I remember one summer, in Font-Romeu [in the Pyrenees mountains on the boarder of France and Spain], we were skating alongside Philippe Candeloro and his coaching team.

During an exhibition, Philippe danced to an incredible salsa on the ice and then he squeezed himself into the apparel of a cosmonaut and started lighting some fireworks. Then he launched himself on his belly all the way from one end of the rink to the next! I was completely puzzled to see a champion having so much fun on the ice.

Then, another summer, I went to skate alongside [two-time world ice dance medalists] Sophie Moniotte and Pascal Lavanchy. I was telling myself, 'If I listen carefully to the coach, I'll be like them one day!' A few years later, we started practicing with [2002 Olympic ice dance champions] Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat. We got a taste of what was waiting for us. That pushed us forward.

There is also one team I would like to mention: the Duchesnays, for their originality. We never skated with them, but we won silver at Skate Canada one year, and Isabelle Duchesnay awarded us our medal. Fabian and I went crazy; that was the highlight of our week there!"

- As told to Jean-Christophe Berlot

Adian Pitkeev

"When I was 3 1/2, I saw my mother watching figure skating on TV. I also took a look, and just at that moment, Alexei Yagudin appeared on the ice. I did not even know that I was watching the Olympic Winter Games at the time, but what he did surprised me a lot, and I told my mother that I want to do the same [thing as him] someday."

- As told to Vladislav Luchianov

Dmitri Soloviev

"When I was a kid, my mother told me that, in addition to going to school, I should participate in a sport. That day, there was a figure skating competition on TV. I didn't know who was in it, but I very much liked one performance, so I decided to try it. I started on a pond, opposite the Olimpiyskiy National Sports Complex in Moscow. One coach noticed me and invited me to join a group of beginner skaters. I liked it, but I knew that there was a lot of work to be done in order to achieve the level of the guy I watched on TV.

One day, by accident, I got on the ice for the training session of Ilia Kulik -- the skater who I'd seen on television -- and just became 'infected' by his skating. Right then, I set a goal for myself: I want to be like him."

- As told to Vladislav Luchianov

Gabriella Papadakis

"I started skating because my mom was a coach. So I lived under the same roof with my coach, which probably would not have happened in other circumstances. Therefore, at home, we sometimes talked about figure skating. Frankly, it was not always easy. But now, I think it was very cool. You can talk with a very close person about the smallest details of your work and she always understands you."

- As told to Vladislav Luchianov

Guillaume Cizeron 

"I had the opposite situation. In fact, my father became the head of our local figure skating club just because of my involvement in this sport. This happened about five years ago. My sister was involved in figure skating and looking up to her, I found myself in this sport."

- As told to Vladislav Luchianov

Papadakis and Cizeron

"[Our role models are] our coaches, Romain Haguenauer, Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon. We love them very much. It's very inspiring having them work with us, and they are a big part of our lives. There are still a lot of things to learn from them. We are really happy to be a part of their team."

- As told to Vladislav Luchianov

Misha Ge

"I really like figure skaters who bring passion, art and creativity on the ice.

There are a lot of skaters of this kind from whom I'm trying to learn. Many of them are also my friends, such as Yuzuru Hanyu, Alexei Yagudin, Daisuke Takahashi, Johnny Weir and many others."

- As told to Vladislav Luchianov

Elena Ilinykh

"My main hero is my mother, because since my early childhood, I saw how bravely she coped with difficulties. She taught me how to do that. My mother always helps me in any situation and finds the right words of support. She is my ideal of a real woman."

- As told to Vladislav Luchianov