Joubert shows new programs in France

Despite blade problem, Joubert looks in top form

A new hairdo isn't the only surprise Joubert has up his sleeve this season.
A new hairdo isn't the only surprise Joubert has up his sleeve this season. (Getty Images)


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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to
(10/04/2008) - Starting a new season is always a challenge for skaters. The French Masters, which are being held in the city of Orléans, one hour south of Paris, were created just for that purpose. Traditionally, the first competition of the season, they are welcomed by most elite junior and senior skaters, who are eager to show their new programs.

"It is the first gathering of the whole family before French nationals," André Philippe, one of the organizers, stated when opening the ice rink to the first competitors Thursday morning. More than anything, those Masters offer the opportunity to seize each skater's shape and spirits at start of the season.

They also provided a good opportunity to speak with Brian Joubert and evaluate how he was feeling.

Two changes and one (hopefully minor) problem at start of the season

At first glance, you can see that Brian has changed. First, his hair is longer than last season.

"This is my choreographer's idea," said Joubert. "Actually, I like it, so here is my new look," he confirmed with a smile.

The change is also visible when Joubert steps on the ice. For that change he gives tribute again to his choreographer, Evgeni Platov, with whom he worked last summer. When he learnt that Kurt Browning, with whom he had worked the last couple seasons, would not be available to create his new programs, Joubert turned to Platov for help.

"Evgeni is very different from Kurt, actually," explained Joubert. "I worked very well with him also. What I liked was that I had a say in the choreographical choices we were making. So, I involved myself much more into those two programs than I ever did. I feel good with them. Now it will be important to hear the judges' comments, here in France and at the international level."

Platov has also changed Joubert's approach to step sequences. "Evgeni is also a great technician for steps," Joubert commented. "He is very fast and tonic." This, of course, should fit his temper well.

His new short program, set to the music of Safri Duo, as well as his long, which he skates to the music of The Last of Mohicans, clearly show the new directions he has taken. "In fact, the goal this year would be to combine Kurt's smooth style and Evgeni's power," Joubert continued.

No injury has hampered Joubert's preparation so far this year. He trained at high altitude in the Alps most of the summer (around 5500 ft.). That helped him build a solid physical shape. "Everything is all right." Jean-Christophe Simond, who coaches Joubert, confirmed later. "There is just that small problem with one of his blades, but it should be fixed soon. We do not know what is happening."

Until four days ago, everything was running smoothly for the 2007 world gold medalist. Then it seemed to change when he had his blades sharpened. His quads, which he had mastered well throughout the summer, started to elude him.

Joubert's blade sharpener is no one else than the 1960 world gold medalist Alain Giletti, who has inherited the sharpening machine Pierre Brunet (former coach to Carol Heiss Jenkins, Don Jackson, Alain Calmat and Giletti) had devised in the 1960s. Giletti has become somewhat of a guru of blade sharpening in France and personally takes care of Joubert's blades.

"You know how things go," Simond commented. "You are skating great, and, all of a sudden, you miss one jump and then you miss it again. Then you start questioning everything that has happened since. Although I do not think there could be a mistake, we will check that blade anyway."

In fact, "Joubert is always a bit nervous about his quads," another observer added. "When his quads start to elude him, nothing seems to go right. Yet you can be sure that everything else is going fine with him!"

Joubert's answer on the ice was clear, however, as he skated powerfully and mostly clean. He slightly over-rotated his quad toe loop in his short program, but managed to land successfully the subsequent triple toe of his combination, his triple Axel and his triple Lutz.

"I will not let that problem distract me anyway. I am not going to focus on that," he said later. "I have not thought of my blades even once throughout the program," he said. He smiled right after to his coach and added, "But you know, I changed that blade yesterday night again!"

However important the results of these French Masters may be, their real point is not in the final rankings they will lead to. As a skater, you need to disclose your new programs to judges, audience and the press after a whole summer of work and listen to their comments. You also want to show everyone, including your competitors, that you are fit and ready for the season to come.

This is exactly what Brian Joubert is doing this week end in Orléans.

Joubert is expected to compete again at the International Cup of Nice (in the B series), later this month, then in the Paris and Moscow stages of the Grand Prix in November.