Ice Network

Bouillabaisse: Medvedeva, Luna an inseparable duo

Coaches put in long days at the rink; Ice dancers show off French skills
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Evgenia Medvedeva brings her cat, Luna, with her wherever she goes. -Getty Images

One of the unique things about the Grand Prix Final is that it mixes junior and senior skaters. Most junior competitors have emphasized how much inspiration they gain from watching the seniors skate. Asked what advice he would give to the junior skaters, Yuzuru Hanyu answered humbly, "I practice with Jun Hwan Cha, and he has everything already. I really don't think I have any advice to give! In fact, I think the junior skaters give me some motivation. Alexei Krasnozhon, the American skater, is the one who tried the quad loop. It wasn't completely clean, but it was ratified, and that gave me the motivation to succeed with my own quad loop. Juniors give me motivation!"

Coaches also need to stretch!

That aforementioned feature puts a lot of stress on the shoulders of coaches, who have to be present for both juniors and seniors. On Friday morning, Japanese coach Mie Hamada was watching Satoko Miyahara warm up in the skate park. A Japanese television crew was filming the scene. And then one wondered: Whose warmup was it? Miyahara was running back and forth, and Dame Hamada started to stretch on the side: her shoulders, her head, her legs, her back. Those who think that a coach doesn't jump with his or her skater are wrong! In fact, as Hamada admitted afterward, "The days are quite long, and we need to stretch as well!" A coach's day at the Final usually extends from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

American French

Several skaters are proud to display their French-speaking skills with fans and journalists in Marseille. The best at it is Zachary Donohue, who manages to speak accent-free. It was discovered yesterday that Michael Parsons, the junior ice dance gold medalist from the United States, also speaks French fluently. "I took six years of French at school," he explained (in French!) smiling. If you ran the numbers, you could derive that ice dance is providing the most French-speaking skaters. Maybe that's because they have a good ear and can pick up a different language more easily (especially if it a musical one)? Or maybe -- and more surely -- because most American skaters in Marseille are ice dancers!

Moon watch

Each time Evgenia Medvedeva takes the ice, either for practice or competition, she brings one very special character along: a dark blue cat made of fluffed fabric, depicting a Japanese animated movie character. It has a moon on its forehead, and two Asian eyes. In fact, it hides a Kleenex box inside, which Medvedeva can pick from during her practice. "Her name is Luna. This is a gift from a Japanese fan," Medvedeva explained. "I like my cat so much!" When she is not skating, Medvedeva carries Luna around. When she is, Luna quietly sits on the boards, close to her skateguards and a bottle of water, under the expert supervision of Medvedeva's coach, Eteri Tutberidze. Luna is not just sitting there, actually: She watches, with her eyes riveted on her favorite skater! Maybe that's why Medvedeva's jumping ability is so cat-like and sure?

For the love of pairs

Canada's Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau did not fare too well at this Final, where they ended fifth after a disastrous short program. They regrouped in the free program, however, where they could display that unique feature they have on the ice: a connection between them that almost looks similar to the alchemy ice dancers manage to create on the ice. "We work with Marie-France Dubreuil once a week," Séguin explained. "We practice with their dancers, and we take as much as we can from their expertise: the quality of their edges, the way they have to fly over the ice, the relation they create between one and the other, their complicity. In ice dance, you never see two skaters; you see one unified form. That's what we strive for."

Push left!

Rushing down to the mixed zone is easy in Marseille: You only have to rush through a turnstile that lets you through, and then hurry down the stairs. Coming back is trickier, however. The turnstile in your way is blocked; you need to push on a side button to unlock it. That could be easy, but there is another challenge: The button is on your left, and for some reason, we all want to push the button on the right side (which unlocks the next door). Coaches, skaters, journalists and officials find themselves blocked dozens of times every day. Security officers have provided the right explanations (well, "left," actually), fortunately. How many times a day do they see people making the same mistake? "Oh well, we don't count," one security officer said, laughing. "But when you're there to help, you always wonder if the one coming up is going to make it or not…"

Security rules

People are paid to do what they are asked to do. That's the case with security officers. Except, the rules may not be quite adapted to the situation. In Marseille, you can enter basically everywhere if you say hi to the security -- but you can't go out without being checked. Why "out" and not "in"? Because that's the rule. Also, you're not allowed in with food, which is quite a challenge for the journalists, who have to stay at the arena as long as coaches do (see above). In case you're interested, just say hi! It might work. Marseille people are friendly and open, too. That's the South (of France)!

Why not?

Most skaters tend to practice most of their jumps before or after their "official" runthrough -- that is, not when their music is being played. Saturday morning was no exception, as most ladies worked on their placement, posture, spins and steps during their runthrough. Most, but not all: Medvedeva skated a complete (and perfect) program. She did add two tricks, as if they were a natural part of the program: a triple lutz-triple toe-triple toe combination and a triple salchow-triple toe-triple toe later on. Just like that. "Why not?" as she would say…