Ice Network

Czech guláš: Orser sticking to plans for Yuzu, Javi

Chen's performance no reason for students to make changes, coach says
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Brian Orser said he doesn't want his two top pupils, Yuzuru Hanyu and Javier Fernández, to make any drastic changes to their programs following Nathan Chen's eye-opening performances at the 2017 U.S. Championships. -Getty Images

There are two kinds of skaters: Those who get applauded -- most of them falll into this category, needless to say -- and those who get screamed at. The difference is most notable during practice, when the audience is scarcer. Well, Javier Fernández is of the latter kind. Each times he bows at the end of a session, you can hear a loud "Hiiiiii!" (just like in "Javiiiiii!"). This is usually followed by a rush from the stands to the boards by a number of volunteering students, who take a few selfies before letting their hero go to stretch in another building. These students are particularly helpful to making the event a success...hats off to them for the good work! Javi must be one of the greatest selfie takers of his time. (Did selfies exist before him?) Hiiiiii! Javiiiii! Selfiiiii!

Fernández back in top form

Fernández' practice sessions in Ostrava have been stellar. Six weeks after his fourth-place finish at the Grand Prix Final, the reigning world champion has returned to his usual grandeur. His triple axel and quads seem fluid and natural again. "He had a great Spanish nationals after the Final," his coach, Brian Orser, confirmed. "He had to redeem himself!" Orser laughed. "He had to organize a show in Madrid, and he took too much (on). Too many things can become distracting. He has to learn to say no! I'm glad it happened this year, not next year…"

His master's voice: Brian Orser's high fidelity

Asked to comment on Nathan Chen's fantastic free program at the 2017 U.S. Championships and how it might impact his own protégés, Orser was quick to answer: "Until now, Yuzuru and Javi had each other to push themselves, and there was a gap behind them. Now other ones, like Nathan Chen, Boyang Jin, Shoma Uno, Alexander Samarin and a few others, are filling the gap. That's where the sport is going. What Nathan did at U.S. nationals was brilliant. I'm grateful of their efforts.

"They are boosting Yuzu and Javi. It doesn't mean that Javi has to learn other quads. Same for Yuzu. With the programs they both have -- the choreography, the steps, the spins, the jumps -- I'm not worried. Their quads are fast, they fill the space, and they get the GOEs (Grades of Execution). The only two skaters who have beaten the 300-point bar in the world are Yuzu and Javi. We see the others' achievements, we acknowledge them, and we stick to our plans.

"I don't want Yuzu or Javi to be defensive -- that is, to react to that (a performance like Chen's) and change something one year before the Olympics. Yuzu was smart to add a quad loop this year -- because it was this year."

Ave, Caesar…

Showcasing each warmup group was tested unsuccessfully some years ago in France. It was introduced again at the Trophée de France, and the ISU seems to have adopted the system as well: Skaters in the upcoming warmup group form a line in the middle of the ice, in the light of projectors, while the arena is darkened and strong and lively music is being played. They are then called by their names and wave to the crowd as gladiators used to do in ancient Rome. Then, the light comes back, and the skaters start their warmup period as usual.

"That's the crowd's warmup," someone suggested.

After those theatrics, the audience is ready to applaud even louder!

To change or not to change, that is the question

The news broke Thursday evening, right after the pairs free skate press conference: The referee and the technical panel of the ice dance event had revised the program of the afternoon winners, Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte. They decided to take one point off their score for an extra element. That change caused a domino effect: The ranking had to be reversed, with Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev receiving the small gold medal, which was previously awarded to the Italians. The draw for the free dance had to be redone as well. Most articles were already published, or on the verge of being printed in morning newspapers.

Changing or not changing an official and signed result, hours after it's been released, remains an issue: Should justice prevail or should a result be considered as final?

"In soccer, even if videos clearly show a hand, a goal awarded by the referee is final," some argued.

Changing or not changing will never prevent controversy anyway!

Don't expect -- just hope!

France's Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès finally won a European medal Thursday evening, after a stellar free program where nothing lacked -- neither the technique nor the art nor the subtleness the French have been known for. They had been hoping for this medal for so long.  

Hoping, not expecting, however.

"We've learned not to expect anything," James said, half laughing, after the competition was over. "Two years ago, at the Europeans, we were standing in third place after the short program, and the next day I had forgotten my program and we failed. ... I don't expect anything anymore but fight!"

The next day

Sunshine finally prevailed in Ostrava on Friday morning, shining over the snow all around. For most skaters, this was just a normal competition morning. At the official hotel, skaters were leaving their rooms in due time to have breakfast according to their practice schedule.

Not so for James.

"I went back to my room right after the podium to have some rest," she explained. "But I couldn't sleep until 3 a.m., and then I woke up at 7. Now I'm going to support Maé[-Bérénice Méité] and Laurine [Lecavelier] (the two French ladies competitors) at practice. I don't know where I am anyway.

"This is weird: We won a European medal. When I left the ice yesterday, I wanted to cry, but I simply couldn't. I still can't believe it. We'll celebrate once everything is over. At the same time, it's such a relief: Now we've achieved it!"

And it's for all their life long!

Mixed green room

The "Green Room" had been organized so that TV watchers could see the top skaters' reactions as their fellow competitors received their marks. Written press journalists hate the Green Room, as it prevents the best skaters from giving personal reactions as they leave the ice.

The organizers in Ostrava have found a smart way to help solve the problem: They have set the Green Room right in the mixed zone, close to the TV booths. This way, skaters are just a few steps away from journalists, and they can come chat with them while their competitors are skating. It makes for broken quotes, as they have to go back to the Green Room as soon as a program is over...but at least they can talk!

The Green Room might be helpful, however: Hopefully, Mr. Mishin won't be in it, so maybe journalists will have a chance to get a few words from Carolina Kostner next time?