Ice Network

James, Ciprès pride themselves on taking risks

French pair relies on power, deep connection to push itself forward
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With their powerful style of skating and their emotional connection on the ice, Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès are able to set themselves apart from their peers. -Getty Images

France's Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès have added a new dimension to their skating ever since they relocated to Florida and started training with John Zimmerman's team. They arrived in Grenoble with a new title of sorts -- that of "favorites" (or at least co-favorites, with Russians Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov) in the competition, especially with them skating on home soil. They will enter the free program in second place, and they were kind enough to talk with icenetwork about their new style and the progress they've made since their move to the United States.

Icenetwork: The style of music you are skating to has completely changed in the last two years. Why?

Ciprès: As you know, we relocated last year because we needed to change the direction of our career. There are moments in the life of an athlete when you need to find new things to help you improve your results. We changed coaches, and we changed our style in the process. We changed our results, too, and that certainly has something to do with it.

We found our new style skating to "The Sound of Silence" last year. At first, it's true, I didn't like it. It was something we certainly wouldn't have skated to just two or three years ago. That was not our style. We were more into themes like Pearl Harbor or Angels and Demons, which we used to skate to with a lot of power.

James: For this season, we still wanted something powerful, because that's what we are. We were rather nervous at the end of last season, when we needed to select a musical piece for this season. We could feel the expectations people had after "The Sound of Silence." It's never easy to find a similar theme and, at the same time, one that allows you to get even better and show your improvement.

We were quite worried. Our coaches suggested that we keep one of our two programs. We had so much fun skating both, actually.

Ciprès: Except it would have been difficult to do better with these programs, as we medaled at Europeans and won the World Team Trophy pairs competition (last season). We really wanted to bring something new again. That's why we went to "Say Something."

The lyrics are very emotional, very strong. There is a bit of a sad feeling; it's not happy music, but it is powerful. It allows for deep emotions, and it matches our power.

Icenetwork: It's amazing, watching you skate, to observe how you work with slower musical pieces, and even with silence at times.

Ciprès: Obviously, I don't watch us skate, but I'm glad youu feel that way! We've always had the technical content in our skating, but transmitting an emotion with a person who is different from yourself is a completely different story. We had the package -- now we are able to emit an emotion. We know that we need that to express very powerful things. It's a special weapon to have.

James: Our main problem, before last year, was that we were two different people on the ice. We needed to change that and to increase the connection between the two of us.

Ciprès: If I were skating with another partner, or if Vanessa were skating with someone else, we would probably communicate something completely different. Now, our team moves people, and I am really proud of that. We are even becoming different thanks to that newfound capacity we've developed. Some people even tell us that we are making our sport evolve. That's something I'm also proud of.

Icenetwork: What about your quad salchow? We can hear the energy it takes when you launch it. It's a noisy element!

Ciprès: That's obviously the most difficult element of our program. We started working on it two seasons ago. It started to round into form last season. We are landing it more and more often, and in a more and more consistent way. We land three to four each day now, but we still need to pay a lot of attention to it. We're still taking a risk.

James: We needed to learn it, to understand it, to tame it in a way, by landing it over and over every day. It's become easier now, and we don't need to land a double before going to the quad. It can happen spontaneously in a practice session, which shows we are going in the right direction.

Ciprès: Before this year, we were getting into it at great speed, and Vanessa was covering a huge amount of ice before landing it. The more speed you have, the less controlled it will be.

Icenetwork: How do you manage to control it better, then?

Ciprès: By adding transitions before launching it. Transitions allow you to better control a difficult jump (James and Ciprès did just that in the short program, as they entered into the throw via a lift). Our energy level and physical strength are difficult to control consistently otherwise.

James: A quad is not just a regular element, however. Our quad salchow is not like Meagan [Duhamel] and Eric [Radford]'s quad salchow. They are completely different: My position in the air is different, the distance we cover is different. As you say, it's easy to notice that our quad is a quad right away -- it is completely visible, and there's no chance that you could question whether it's a triple or a quad! (She laughs.)

Ciprès: We are a rather powerful team. When Vanessa lands a throw jump, it's always very impressive. We like to innovate and bring new elements to the sport.

James: Take the arm I lift during the throw triple flip. We are the first to do it that way. One day, we asked ourselves whether we could do it. Then we tried, and we made it work. That's good for the evolution of the sport. I love that. Falling down because you tried something new is no problem. One needs to push oneself. One needs to challenge oneself, always. I'm proud we can be a part of that.

Ciprès: We are grateful that we can bring these elements (to the sport). A few years ago, we tried side-by-side triple toe-triple toe combinations, and we were among the first to do that. Then we had the "kneeling" lift at the end of our program. Now we have the throws with raised arms. I hope we keep going!

Icenetwork: What is your goal here?

Ciprès: We'd love to qualify for the Grand Prix Final, for sure. That would be a great achievement for us. We'd need to win this Grand Prix...why not?

Icenetwork: And for later in the season?

James: We don't know. We'll see. You know, we take risks on the ice, and risk does pay. But our bodies pay, too.

Ciprès: Well, if we get an Olympic medal, or if we beat Aliona [Savchenko] and Bruno [Massot] on a day when they skate at the level they can, then I suppose we won't have many more goals in skating! (They both laugh.)