Notes from practice at the Trophee Eric Bompard

Mao Asada and Kimmie Meissner prepare for their duel

Kimmie Meissner with her coach Pam Gregory.
Kimmie Meissner with her coach Pam Gregory. (Taffy Holliday)


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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to
(11/16/2007) - There are a lot of things that go on during a Grand Prix event. From waiting to get on the ice to waiting to get to Paris, here are notes from all across the competition.

"When can we train?"

The action began to take place Wednesday evening in the lobby of the Novotel, just a few meters away from the Paris main arena. The Japanese team and the Chinese team enter at the same time. Right in the middle, Mao Asada pushes her heavy white suitcase covered with international stickers. The first thing she asks for is not, "Where is my room?", as one might expect. She simply says: "When can I practice?"

One hour and 20 minutes later, the Japanese team enters into the rink, ready for their first unofficial training. Kimmie Meissner and the American team had just finished their own practice. Mao and Kimmie found themselves together in the stands, one finishing and one ready to start.

Two years ago, at the very same place, the two were rehearsing together in their first common Grand Prix, and the young skaters displayed an incredible array of triple Axels for the audience. On Thursday night, Kimmie had already left the rink, but she then came back a little to watch her Japanese opponent.

What it takes to come to Paris

Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent, the American pair, arrived right on time for the first official practice.

"Our plane broke in Phoenix," Derek explains, "so we arrived about three hours late in Cincinnati. We missed our connection by about 10 minutes, so we had to spend one day there. The Club of Cincinnati was nice enough to pick us up and let us use their ice. Then we arrived at 10 this morning in Paris. But someone had forgotten their luggage at the airport, so they had to blow it up and the whole terminal was evacuated. Altogether we arrived here around 12, only one hour before our practice session!"

The duo did not need long to warm up, though, and they managed to land their trademark throw quad at the end of their practice.

Mao's determination

Mao Asada's first official practice session showed her determination to win. Her jumps were beautiful. When she skated she seemed to hop from one step to the next as a fairy on an illuminated lake.

Now she trains in Lake Arrowhead, Calif., with Raphael Arutunian.

"I like it!" she says after practice. "There are many people in Japan. Rinks are very crowded. In Lake Arrowhead, we are only six, so it is much better." When asked about how she likes living in the States, Mao hesitates, she watches above her head and replies, "for figure skating?"

Arutunian laughs: "This is funny. You ask her about life, and she thinks about skating!" The truth is that Mao spends her life at the rink. No doubt, Mao is determined to win -- here, and everywhere.

A physics teacher is not too pleased

"This is my fourth week of missing school this year", said Ashley Wagner, the current junior worlds bronze medalist and member of the American team in Paris. She explains, "When I said I had to go to France, my physics teacher was not too pleased. Then two weeks ago, I told them I was going on ESPN. They watched me and realized that I was really going to skate. I was not going to the Bahamas for vacation! Then they were all going like, 'Ah, Ashley, if you need any help, please let us know!'"