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Long way through winter for top French skaters

Balancing commitments, goals keys to their success

Brian Joubert.
Brian Joubert. (Getty Images)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(02/14/2008) - The European Figure Skating Championships are always a milestone in European skating. Top French skaters have renewed their fame, thanks to the national television coverage of skating events throughout the fall and winter. Brian Joubert, , and all their likes are now asked to tour and skate in exhibitions all around the country and beyond. At the same time, they need to rest from an already lengthy season and must focus toward what may be their main goal of the skating season: the World Figure Skating Championships, which are now one month away, March 17-23.

Show show show

Three main skating shows are now getting ready to tour France. One, appropriately named "Hello and Goodbye" has already started, as Philippe Candeloro is currently skating his farewell tour. The show has been choreographed by his wife, Olivia, and gathers some of the Theatre on Ice contingent she used to train in Colombes, near Paris. At almost 36 (his birthday is Feb. 17), Candeloro decided that it was time to quit. "I am still able to land all six triple jumps," he explained, "and I want to leave while I am still able to perform them."

The show is built around Candeloro's competitive free programs and the characters he elected to depict in them: Conan in 1993, the Godfather in 1994 (with whom he won an Olympic bronze medal in Lillehammer and a world silver in Chiba) and 1995, Lucky Luke the joyful cowboy in 1996, Napoleon (in 1997), and finally his world acclaimed D'Artagnan in 1998, who owned him his second Olympic bronze in Nagano.

The show, which has already played in several cities, should tour around France and a bit of Europe throughout 2008.

Also ready to tour across France is "Stars sur Glace" ("Stars on Ice "). The French competitive team members are scheduled to skate in about 30 cities around the country. They have already started in Grenoble, for the ceremony celebrating the Olympic Games' 40th anniversary in that city. The next shows are scheduled for after the World championships in Göthenburg, Sweden, at the end of March.

"Les Etoiles de la Glace" ("the Ice Stars") gathers champions from the recent past. Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat, Sarah Abitbol and Stéphane Bernadis, Elena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov, Laurent Tobel and a few others, will remind French audiences with their own passion to skate. The show is scheduled to visit about 20 cities.

"Holiday on Ice" is starting its French tour as well on Feb. 14, on Valentine's Day. Brian Joubert is scheduled to skate in the opening show in Paris.

Mainly through its own much publicized champions, French audience is back to the skating rinks!

Call him "Nikita"

Feb. 23 should be a very special day for Marina Anissina, who won the ice dancing olympic gold medal with Gwendal Peizerat in Salt Lake City in 2002.

That day, she should tie the knot with her boyfriend, Nikita. Anissina, who skated for years in Russia with Ilya Averbukh, decided to move to France when her then-partner decided to skate with the love of his life, Irina Lobacheva. Anissina joined forces with Peizerat to claim World and Olympic glory. Lobacheva and Averbukh won the Olympic silver medal in Salt Lake City, one single judge away from Anissina and Peizerat. They won a World gold medal for Russia in 2003.

Anissina has become a French citizen in the process. Now, she is marrying a Russian. Six years, almost to the day, after she won the Olympic Gold medal.

Time to show, time to practice

Top French skaters may be busy rehearsing and performing in skating shows, but their major goal right now is to get ready for the World Championships. Joubert is feeling much better fit at the moment, after the health problems he had to endure throughout the fall. He is now working on his choreography with Kurt Browning, who came to Joubert's home rink in Poitiers, in the center-west of the country, for a few days. Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder are finally back to Lyon after a series of exhibitions they gave in Eastern Europe (Sarajevo, among others). Alban Préaubert, who many consider to be France's second-best male skater, has decided to change the most important part of his programs before Worlds, in order to add even more impact to them.

The second part of winter is always a critical time for competitive skaters. They have to cope with their fame once it is back again at its peak, they have to get ready to renew it in the upcoming championships, and they still have to manage their life altogether. There is no doubt about why a skating season can be so long and exhausting.