Ice Network

Fondue delight: Ge offers sacrifice before free skate

Encounter with Torvill leaves Abachkina speechless; The end of Sho-mania
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To give a more authentic portrayal of his programs, Misha Ge shaves his beard before he takes the ice for his free skate. -Getty Images

The men's free skate revealed a reality that almost went unnoticed: The beard Misha Ge wore during his short program was gone.

"Different story, different look!" he explained. "My short program could be titled 'A Pain of the Heart.' Everyone can relate to it, as it deals with the most painful memories of your lives. But at the same time, they make us who we are, right? Everyone can also relate to my free program, 'The Memory of Youth.' That's the memory of the first person or toy or puppy you loved in your life. That memory remains through the years.

"You know, I was lucky enough to have many mentors around me, and they taught me one thing: You have to leave your heart out there."

Ge went even beyond that: Every time out, he sacrifices his own beard!

Detailed planning

But, then, does it mean that Ge needs time to let his beard grow before any competition?

"Well, it takes about 10 days to have it back," he explained.

Still, he plans to be at Skate America next week.

"I won't be there as a competitor, though, but as a choreographer. I'll be with two skaters, Sergei Voronov, whose two programs I choreographed, and Maxim Kovtun. I'll let my beard grow there!"

Ge is also known for being an expert in planning. He has so many different careers going on all at once!

A country of fashion

French women have a reputation for liking clothes. Laurine Lecavelier surprised Europe last season when she changed skirts in the middle of her free program, thanks to well-hidden fast-fasteners. Maé-Bérénice Méité, the other French skater competing in Grenoble, did the same this year, also in the middle of her free program.

Change moods, change costumes!

The wide, wild world of skating

Early mornings are good for improbable encounters. Japan's former great, Nobunari Oda, was in Grenoble as a commentator for Japanese television. He arrived early at the rink Sunday morning for a team meeting. Ge was in the rink before everyone else as well (Ge is known for always being in the rink early). The two of them met in the empty corridor for a minute.

"I thought you were so fit," Ge offered, laughing, "I thought you were coming back to competition!"

In his time, Oda was a forerunner of the quad revolution. No doubt he had a lot to say about the direction the sport is going in.

The podium syndrome

"I really don't know what happened," Italy's Matteo Guarise said as he entered the rink for the gala exhibition Sunday morning.

With partner Nicole della Monica, Guarise won the pairs bronze, the team's first medal in the Grand Prix Series in 10 tries.

"I went to bed around 1:30 am, but I couldn't sleep until 4. The wheels in my head kept turning around and around…"

Getting a Grand Prix medal is quite exciting. We wish Matteo many such wheel-turning nights to come!

The quad trap (cont'd)

French national television broadcasted the event in primetime. The men's and ladies free skates made Paul Péret, the network's figure skating executive producer, raise his eyebrows.

"The audience likes to be entertained," he said. "Too many quads may kill a program: When a skater misses some, there is often nothing left in their program, as the basics are often lacking, and it's boring for the audience.

"Another thing can kill an audience: Placing the majority of your jumps in the second half of your programs may bring additional points to skaters, but it also leads to not-so-interesting first parts."

Programs may be more formatted than ever; fortunately, the audience keeps loving skating and its champions.

Encounter

Ice dancer Angélique Abachkina, who, with partner Louis Thauron, finished a respectable sixth at the second Grand Prix of her career, was enthusiastic about the person she met in the stands in Grenoble: Jayne Torvill, the 1984 Olympic gold medalist with Christopher Dean.

"That was so impressive. I would never have expected to meet her here!" Abachkina said excitedly. "To me, she is such a legend. I've seen all the Torvill-Dean programs on videos; they radiate such an incredible energy. The program I prefer is the one they skated to rock 'n' roll (1993-94), because of the tricks they displayed from start to end. I told her that Louis and I had tried to perform one of their tricks once -- it led (to) me (getting) three stitches in my leg! She congratulated us for our free dance and said she had liked it. That's one of those situations when you keep your eyes wide open and don't even know what to say."

Welcome to the senior ranks, Angélique!

Sho-mania is over

Throughout the entire event, Shoma Uno was chased around by journalists and cameras (mainly those from his country of Japan). On Sunday morning, he was finally able to wander around the corridors and lobby of the rink without being interrupted, filmed or just followed. The TV crews and photographers had flown home. Only the fans remained, but they were not in the arena in the morning. It can be said Sunday is Shoma day -- a real free day!

It won't last long, however: The Grand Prix Final is in Uno's home city of Nagoya. There, it should be Sho-mania to the power of 10!

Bye, France!

On Sunday, the weather was reminiscent of that of a ski resort: cool in the shade, warm in the sun. The 50th anniversary of the Olympic Winter Games being held in Grenoble is being widely celebrated here, with photo exhibits all over the city.

Just one thought before parting ways: Team USA's Gracie Gold had planned to be here this week. An avid photographer, she would have loved to wander the streets and photograph the historic-looking buildings. Take care of yourself, Gracie! We missed you.

Grenoble should welcome the Grand Prix in the two years to come. It will be a pleasure, as the event was beautifully organized. The city has written a new page in the big book of skating. Thank you for following along.

Now, it is Skate America's time!