Ice Network

Bouillabaisse: Young fans dazzled by pairs lifts

Zhang lends partner Yu helping hand, gives Duhamel birthday hug
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
Of all the elements performed by skaters during the practice sessions in Marseille, the one that drew the most applause from the schoolchildren in attendance were the pairs lifts. -Getty Images

When skaters leave the kiss and cry, they are greeted by journalists (many, if it's a Japanese skater) in the mixed zone. Skaters are invited to stand in front of a backdrop that matches the colors of the event. On Thursday evening, a journalist leaned over the backdrop and remained glued to it: The backdrop is made of several panels, which are held together with Velcro. The Velcro is quite strong and caught the sweater of the journalist. Beware skaters: Don't rely too much on the backdrop -- you might get stuck (to the extreme pleasure of journalists, of course, but still!).

The wide world of skating (Russia-China version)

On Thursday night, after the opening ceremony, Hao Zhang, ISU journalist and acting press officer Tatiana Flade and pairs coach Nina Mozer were laughing together in the mixed zone. The day had been long already, and Zhang was due to skate his short program in less than an hour. But for then, they had some time. Zhang was showing them photos of his son on his smartphone. And then he showed the hilarious throw jump that he performed once with Johnny Weir, with Weir jumping and turning in the air and Zhang acting as the launcher. You can have a good laugh at the most serious skating competition sometimes, especially when the day is getting long!

Skating calculus

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford had a rough time during their short program, as she put a hand down on the team's side-by-side triple lutzes and fell on their throw triple axel. As they were leaving the ice rather disappointed, the spectators in the corner of the rink all yelled at once, "Happy birthday, Meagan!" Duhamel was already figuring out that their missed attempt on the axel would earn them no more than two points (it came to 2.40 points) when a solid throw triple lutz would have added seven points to their tally -- a calculation she detailed later in the mixed zone. At the end of the post-event press conference, however, she and Hao Zhang congratulated each other with a big hug. "I turned 31!" she told him. At last, she could count something more joyful -- her own age! Happy birthday, Meagan!

Opening Theatre!

For once, the opening ceremony in Marseille was not a performance by the host club: The organizers invited the Theatre On Ice team of Villard de Lans, in the Alps, to open the Grand Prix Final with one of their numbers. Villard has won the four last Nations Cups, Theatre On Ice's most coveted competition, which gathers the best teams in the world every other year. (The next one is planned for the end of April in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Go there if you have a chance!) The team displayed beautiful ensembles and edges, with a powerful message of universal human peace and friendship through skating and sport. Maria-Theresa Samaranch, the ISU representative and council member, who has always supported Theatre On Ice, went to the locker room afterward and took the time to thank each skater individually for his or her performance. There is so much in skating!

The wide world of skating (Spain-Japan version)

The conference room is completely packed each time Yuzuru Hanyu is due to arrive, like for the draw or post-event press conferences. Journalists are numerous, but they are far outnumbered by photographers. That was the case Thursday night, as Hanyu was sitting down between his two friendly rivals -- Patrick Chan to his right, Javier Fernández to his left -- after winning the short program. The (mainly Japanese) engine-powered cameras kept flashing for many minutes. "Click-click-click-click…they are just like Spanish castanets," a Spanish volunteer noted aloud. "This is the Japanese version of 'Malagueña' (Fernández' short program music)!" she added in laughter.

Big brother

Zhang could be found tying his partner's boot backstage, prior to the event. "You know, I've known her since she was very little" -- since Xiaoyu Yu was about 8 years old, in fact -- "So, of course, we're comfortable with one another. And quite naturally, we do help each other," Zhang said, smiling.

The most applauded figure

Give schoolchildren a chance to attend a skating practice session, and you'll get an idea of what the most spectacular moves are to a generous, yet young audience. Would you think it's a quad? Or a series of twizzles? Or an everlasting spin? Or even a breathtaking "death" spiral? Well, no, and there is no contest: It's the pairs lifts. They rightfully account for many points in a performance (even more than jumps, sometimes), but they are also the most admired elements. On Friday morning, the senior pairs lifts launched huge "whoas" and applause from all parts of the rink. A good way for the pairs to be "up-lifted!"