Becky Bereswill's JGP France diary

All the news from backstage in Courchevel

Some of the skaters got to take a gondola ride up one of the mountains near Courchevel and enjoy the magnificent view of the Alps.
Some of the skaters got to take a gondola ride up one of the mountains near Courchevel and enjoy the magnificent view of the Alps. (Paul Tortland)


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By Becky Bereswill, special to
(08/29/2008) - This weekend, Becky Bereswill will serve as's behind-the-scenes reporter from the Junior Grand Prix event in Courchevel, France.

Day 5: Final day

Today was the final day of the competition. Armin Mabanoozehdeh skated an exceptional long program to finish second in a very competitive men's field. The men's event, full of many talented skaters was really fun to watch. Seeing so many gorgeous triple Axels was inspiring as well.

As always, everyone loved watching the free dance event to see all of the incredible skating (and beautiful costumes!). Chloe [Wolf] and Rhys [Ainsworth] skated a strong free dance to the music from The Matrix, and wowed the crowd with a really innovative opening lift. Maia and Alex [Shibutani] left the arena speechless after their entrancing free dance with powerful footwork, complex spins, and unique lifts. The brother and sister team skated effortlessly as if they were telling a perfect dream.

Following the events was a spectacular exhibition. The show was on live TV and the rink looked beautiful with the lights off, bright white spotlights, music synchronized lights, and smoke machines. Performers in the exhibition gala comprised of the top four finishers in every event with additional French skaters. All of the performers had a great time and loved being under the bright spotlights.

Immediately following the "Exhibition Gala," we changed into formal clothes to go to the closing Midnight Banquet. When we arrived at the banquet, we sat down at our team table and enjoyed discussing competition stories. Moments later, we noticed the menu for the night. Everything, though in French, sounded delicious until we read the French word "Darphin." We were very worried that "Darphin" was the French word for dolphin. Immediately, team leader, Justin Dillon, whipped out a French dictionary and to our relief, discovered the word did not mean dolphin, but scallop. After dinner we went back to the hotel to get organized for the early 3:30 a.m. [or 4:30 a.m. for some] bus ride down the mountain. We were all sad to go, but we enjoyed spending our last moments together as a team waiting for the bus and sharing more funny stories.

Overall, this trip has been hard work, but very fun, rewarding, and an absolute honor. I know I speak for the team when I say how thankful we are to the kind, dedicated volunteers and officials. We are also thankful to all who made this trip possible and for our wonderful team officials Judy Blumberg, Kitty DeLio, and Jenny Mast for their endless support and hard work. Thank you also to team doctor, Dr. Paul Tortland, for his encouragement and commitment to the safety of the entire team. And, a very special thank you goes to team leader, Justin Dillon, who inspired the team with his high energy, enthusiastic pep talks, and kept everyone informed and on time, while fulfilling all of our crazy requests, and making it possible for everyone to perform their absolute best!

Au Revoir et merci from Courchevel! Thanks for reading!

Prendre ses Rêves pour des Réalités
(Quote of the Day: "Make your dreams become reality")

Day 4: OD and ladies final

Today went by so fast! The competition began with the original dance and ended with the ladies final. The original dance was a very thrilling event to watch. This year's theme, as everyone probably already knows, is the 1920s, 1930s, or 1940s. It was so fun to see so many interpretations of these eras from the different countries. Chloe and Rhys delivered an exciting original dance with really fun music, high energy, and bright smiles. When I asked Maia about her original dance before the competition, she described the swing themed OD to be "fun and very high energy" which she and Alex gave the entire program with explosive speed, fast moving lifts and fun flying twizzles. This program shot them from a second place finish after the compulsory to a strong first place lead.

The ladies final was tonight and Kristine [Musademba] and I were pleased to skate well and finish first and second overall. We do not have much to report back from the [seven hour!] event, because we missed the first five hours. We can however report that it was an honor to be apart of the beautiful on-ice victory ceremony after the event. The crystal trophies, medals, and sunflower bouquets we received are really beautiful. The best part was hearing our national anthem and seeing the two U.S. flags rise to the roof side by side.

The boys had an official practice today, and will compete their longs tomorrow. The free dance will follow the men's event and this will conclude the competition.

Dominer son sujet
(Quote of the Day: "On top of the world")

Day 3: Competition!

Today was day one of the competition. The first event of the day was the compulsory dance. Both of our teams looked stunning in the Starlight Waltz and the Shibutani's had an exciting second place finish. Following the dance was the five-hour ladies short program event with two Zamboni breaks and six warm-ups. The event was fun to watch because each of the 35 girls from 28 countries, had a unique style and program. Kristine and I were both very pleased with our performances and finished first and second respectively.

The final event of the night was the junior men's short program. The spectacular men's field was exciting to watch, and the audience did not seem to mind that it ended at practically midnight! Elliot Halverson skated a powerful clean short program, landing all of his jumps and really performing the choreography. Armin also had an exceptional short program as he landed every jump and spun every spin with absolute control and power.

During the day, some team members engaged in fun outdoor activities to keep their mind off the competition. After their strong skate, Maia and Alex Shibutani joined coach Igor Shpilband on a grassy hilltop near the hotel to fly a large red kite through the beautiful blue skies of Courchevel. The weather was perfect and the kite successfully took flight several times. They hope to fly the kite tomorrow too. Chloe and Rhys also enjoyed spending time outdoors while eating lunch. I also heard that Rhys's mom went skydiving!

Some skaters have also enjoyed playing cards in the room, which has proven to be a strong outlet for everyone's competitive nature. One thing that we have enjoyed the most about our hotel, other than the kind staff, and wonderful French bread, is the room key situation. Unlike normal, thin, magnetized credit card keys that you can loose and get six more of, the Hotel de Neiges has a stricter, more "quaint" policy. Each room has one large brass key with a gold, engraved handle attached to a large navy blue tassel. It has been fun keeping track of "the key" and having to decide who will keep it or who will leave it in the room mailbox at the front desk. This unique experience has been great because it has forced everyone to be more responsible with "the key" and to memorize their own schedule, as well as their roommate's.

Also, many skaters got a kick out of one of tonight's dinner dishes. The dish was called ratatouille. I have not seen the new movie Ratatouille but I know it's about a mouse who really likes French food. So, seeing this dish I felt obligated to try it and loved it! It was a vegetable medley with a sort of light marinara type sauce. Tres bien! All of the food has been wonderful and Elliot says the sliced cantaloupe and French baguettes are the best.

Anyway, tomorrow is the ladies final and the original dance [the boys have the day off]. Au Revoir!

Retrouver le nouvel et l'apprécier la Plénitude
(Quote of the Day: "Experience the new and enjoy it to the full)

Day 2: Practice

Bonjour again!

All is well in Courchevel, and the U.S. team is settling in. The missing baggage arrived this morning, just in time for practice. Today was the official practice ice day. We were excited to test the ice and get our feet underneath us. Everyone had great practices and enjoyed watching and cheering for other teammates. After everyone's thirty-minute session for the day, there were intermediate draws for the short program and compulsory dance starting order.

The draw for the ladies short program was very suspenseful. After thirty-two girls had drawn, including Kristine [Musademba] and I, the only two spots left were first and last (35th)! Overall, we were all pleased with our starting orders, and team leader Justin Dillon was happy that no one drew number one!

After the practices and draws, with the sun high above, blue skies for miles, and bright white mountain tops all around, some members of Team USA headed for the Gondola station. A few skaters, coaches and team doctor Paul Tortland savored their hour ride to the top of the mountain and back while taking lots of pictures. I heard there are several flags at the top, and the skaters ran in excitement to find the U.S. flag waving beautifully through the cool, thin air. I hope to go on Saturday!

At 7:30, the team met for dinner at the restaurant inside the large rink facility. The food has been amazing with fresh fruit, vegetables, a large selection of meats, and, of course, bottomless baskets of French baguettes. The serving staff has been wonderful, always greeting us with a Bonjour and a Bon appetit, while also patiently teaching us the French names of the traditional dishes. Everyone has been touched by the kindness of the hardworking volunteers and the people of Courchevel.

As we were preparing for bed, Maia Shibutani and I heard some very loud popping noises from outside. A second later, recognizing the sound, we both ran to the balcony and swung open both doors. Fireworks! After admiring the bright, multicolored show, Maia got her camera, and I got my phone to record the thrilling display. We don't know who was setting off the faraway fireworks, but we enjoyed them so much and loved the way they lit up the entire black sky and echoed through the valleys and mountains of Courchevel. We hope our other teammates got to see the show!

Tomorrow is Day 1 of the competition. Everyone is nervous but excited for it to start. So, bonne nuit! Good night!

Élagir ses horizons et prendre de la hauter
(Quote of the Day: "Widen your horizons and rise above the world")

Day 1: Travel Day


Greetings from Courchevel, France. You may wonder, "Where is Courchevel?" Well, it is a beautiful alpine village in the French Alps, southeast of Albertville and just west of the Italian Alps. The competition will be held at Le Forum. The weather is cool and crisp tonight, and the city is silent. After a long day of travel, comprising of a quick trip across the Atlantic to Paris, a flight from there to Lyon, and a winding, three-hour bus ride up the mountains, everyone arrived safely.

Most people, fortunately, had an uneventful trip with moderately smooth flights and on-time departures. Everyone was relieved to find that their luggage had made the long journey ... everyone except the Shibutanis, Maia and Alex. At the Lyon airport after everyone claimed their luggage, the Shibutani family watched the empty baggage carousel rotate continuously. We believe their luggage is somewhere in Paris, but they have been in close contact with the local organizing committee and we have faith the bags will arrive soon. Fortunately, Maia and Alex were able to bring their skates and competition outfits on the plane from Detroit to Paris, so they will not have to try and replace the irreplaceable.

Upon arriving, we went immediately to the rink to accreditation where we turned in music and checked in. Being that only one of the volunteers could speak English, this process took a little while, but it was fun to hear so many different languages at one time. After that, we got a brief glimpse at the rink. From what I have seen so far, it is beautiful! There are flowers and posters everywhere, and the "kiss and cry" is decorated like a little ski lodge with snow and evergreen trees. Then, there was a meeting where the team got a briefing from team leader Justin Dillon and team doctor, Dr. Paul Tortland.

Perpétuer L'Émotion et léguer L'essentiel (Keep the dreams alive and pass them on)-- I found this quote in a Courchevel magazine!