Ice Network

Fondue delight: Mishin makes return to Grenoble

Edmunds impresses in practice; Fernández receives sweet gift from journo
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Nearly 50 years after competing at the 1968 Olympic Winter Games in Grenoble, France, Alexei Mishin is back in the city with prized pupil Elizaveta Tuktamisheva. -Getty Images

The ladies were the first to take the ice Friday morning for their short program official practice. They were met with a surprise, as the arena was…almost full with spectators! Children from local schools took the building by storm and cheered every minute of their programs.

"It's great for us skaters to have kids in the rink," Team USA's Polina Edmunds said as she left the ice. "They clap for everything, they love everything we do, and they push us to do even more. Also, it's great that schools take time to bring their classes to the rink. Skating is so interesting as a sport, and you don't often get a chance to see it or practice it. So, this is fun!"

Count on her

Edmunds may be just coming back to the Grand Prix for the first time in two years, but she seems to be at the peak of her craft. In just two practice sessions, she has become one of the skaters to watch. She is one of the tallest and most elegant athletes in the field, and she is a master of technique. Besides, she takes the time to express all her elements individually, which allows the audience to experience them as well at her own pace. She delivered great skates both times.

Ice, but also dance

Half of the ice at the warm-up arena is covered with plastic pavement to give skaters some additional space. Compared to the main arena, the place is completely silent. Focus and concentration are palpable. There's no music, no ice, no glide under the skaters' feet -- just silent exercise throughout the building. On Friday morning, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron were rehearsing their short dance on the floor. The rumba and samba rhythms were making their whole body move, with a clear dissociation between every part of them. Their skate-less dance was just a dream to watch. Watching them made it clear: Ice dance starts with dance. Not only do these two have the purest glide but they also are true dancers.

French flexibility

Exiting the warm-up building is quite a challenge. Over the main door is a huge "One Way Only" sign preventing people from going through it. Well, that's the only way out during the event. What if you are forced to break the law? Well, just follow the skaters! They always know where to go…

A half century later...

One of the competitors from the 1968 Olympic Winter Games is here: Alexei Mishin, who coaches Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, finished fifth in the pairs category with Tamara Moskvina in Grenoble. Both have reached international fame through their coaching careers.

"I remember watching the programs," Mishin recalled. "At that time, jumps were not triple but double only, of course. But there was an excellent standard of skating, clean, with unison between the pair partners. We finished fifth, because it was just impossible to place three Russian pairs on the podium. But you know, I'm not the type of person to live in the past. I'm living what happens today!"

And besides skating?

"My most impressive memory from those Games was meeting with (American movie star) Audrey Hepburn. The most impressive movie I had ever seen was Roman Holiday, which starred her and Gregory Peck. And here she was in front of me. She was so tall -- even taller than I was with my skates on!"

Desperately seeking Shoma

"Let's see, we have 5…6…7 cameras. I mean, carry-on cameras," a Japanese TV crew member explained.

Japanese journalists have increased in numbers as their skaters have gained more and more success on the global stage. True to say, the Japanese crew members are covering most of the places and corridors of the Grenoble arena to catch a glimpse of their champions. Let's call it "Sho-mania!"

From dance to pairs

Nina Mozer, the renowned pairs coach from Russia, came up to the stands to watch the ice dance practice Friday morning. Her star pupils (and heavy favorites here), Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, were warming up below. Although not a big ice dance fan, she warmly applauded the rumba, samba, mambo and bolero of the best teams.

"I like them," she admitted.

Can we hope to see Tarasova and Morozov skate to a rumba in the years to come, after this year's Rachmaninoff piano concerto?

"Well…maybe…I don't know!" she laughed.

Well, icenetwork can offer you one big scoop: The idea of the Russian team skating to Latin music is not imminent.

Bring them sweets

Some journalists like to treat the skaters. A lady journalist brought a small bag of candies to Javier Fernández as he prepared for his morning practice. He welcomed her with a huge smile: "This is exactly what I needed at Cup of China!" he said, laughing.

Would he have needed vitamins or sugar more, to avoid missing two major elements in his free skate?

"Well, both!" he answered.

At least this time he will really be ready. Thanks, journalists!