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Joubert on the mend

This week in French figure skating

Brian Joubert shows off his gold medal from HomeSense Skate Canada International.
Brian Joubert shows off his gold medal from HomeSense Skate Canada International. (Getty Images)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(11/25/2007) - What is the relationship between a virus and a goat? None, of course. Yet both are making the headline stories this week in French skating.

Story of a virus

Remember The Sword in the Stone, the Walt Disney animated movie? Merlin and Madame Mim were allowed to change into any living creature to fight against one another. The latter chose to be a dragon, whereas the first one elected to turn into a virus and -- won.

It was hard to believe that a microscopic creature could be stronger than current world champion Brian Joubert, and the whole arena of Paris Bercy fell in shock when the news of Joubert's withdrawal broke one week ago. The French national champion was preparing for his second Grand Prix of the season when he became increasingly tired and had to stop skating.

Joubert had remained undefeated worldwide for nine events in a row, with his last victory only two weeks before at Skate Canada. His home crowd was hoping he would win one more time at the Eric Bompard Trophy, the French stage of the Grand Prix.

The virus that hit him was not clearly identified, yet it was strong enough to send him to bed for about a week, and deprive him from any sports activity. Joubert was said to be "extremely tired, with high heart rates and low blood pressure".

One week after the Trophee Eric Bompard Cachemire, Joubert was able to take some activities back in his home rink of Poitiers yesterday. He has not been able to rehearse any program or resume training yet, but at least he can skate some elements and jumps. His withdrawal from the Eric Bompard Trophy meant that he would not qualify either for the Grand Prix Final, for which he was considered one of the main favorites. Yet Joubert and his coach Jean-Christophe Simond were hoping that he could compete at French Nationals, which are scheduled to take place in the city of Megève, in the French Alps, next Dec. 7-9.

Overcoming this virus in a short period of time may well be considered as one more victory for Joubert.

The story of a skating goat, or why sponsor a figure skating event?

If your company has a strong product that could be connected to the natural characteristics of figure skating, never hesitate: sponsor the sport. You will not regret it, as the story of Eric Bompard's company demonstrates.

"A goat which has succeeded in life is an Eric Bompard Cashmere": the motto of the company starts the story. Eric Bompard founded his company some 30 years ago, after he toured China as a student. It is still a rather small company, with a yearly turnover slightly above 60 Million US Dollars, which makes and sells high-class cashmere clothes around the world.

After four years as the main sponsor of the French stage of the ISU Grand Prix, Eric Bompard has many reasons to be satisfied. He decided to sponsor the French stage of the Grand Prix nine years ago, first as a co-sponsor with Lalique crystals, and later as the main sponsor. "At first, we simply wanted to develop our image", he explained, "and little by little we really loved the game. This has now become a long term development plan".

Eric Bompard's company now invests about one million dollars each year into the event. Meanwhile his company has developed tremendously. "Now we are in our worldwide development phase", he explained, "and we are opening about 10 new stores in the world each year. Each store generates about 1 million Dollars per year". The company has grown up about 30% in the last three years. This year the company should open stores in New York and Tokyo.

China supplies the company with what he calls "the best cashmere wool in the world", and it is now a major market for it as well. Bompard's investment into the Trophy is quite worthwhile: "it brings us an international exposure on the major TV networks in the major countries of the world, and the opportunity to communicate around the alliance of beauty, luxury, winter and sport", he said. For the skating world, Eric Bompard's Trophy now embodies the glamour of Paris. "All we need to keep going is that ISU and the French Federation support us as a sponsor. We work in a triangular relation, and we would like it to be as smooth as possible". This is not always easy, in the turmoil the French Federation had to deal with in the last years. The company might consider sponsoring another Grand Prix event somewhere else in the world if the conditions are met there more than in Paris.

Let us hope that Eric Bompard's successful goat will not be eaten by some big bad wolf. Let us hope also that the company's success will generate interest from other corporations in the near future.