After bronze medal in L.A., Joubert changes coaches

2007 world champ leaves Simond, but no replacement has been found yet

Brian Joubert left the ice after the free skate at worlds in frustration after a couple mistakes cost him his second world gold medal.
Brian Joubert left the ice after the free skate at worlds in frustration after a couple mistakes cost him his second world gold medal. (Getty Images)


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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to
(04/02/2009) - World bronze medalist Brian Joubert announced Wednesday that he was making a coaching change, leaving Jean-Christophe Simond, who he had been working with for three years.

"There is no trust between the two of us anymore," Joubert explained.

The news was not a big surprise to many, however, especially after the world championships in Los Angeles last week. Right after Joubert skated to his bronze medal, French Federation president Didier Gailhaguet accused Simond publicly of changing Joubert's program at the last minute.

Joubert had won the short program and skated last in the free skate. He then dropped his planned second quad and went for a double Axel-triple toe combination at the end of his program. He mixed up his elements, though, and fell heavily on his double Axel a few seconds before the end of his program. Joubert had made such last-minute adjustments several times already in recent competitions. Gailhaguet nonetheless claimed that this change had cost Joubert the gold medal.

"Especially this year," Gaihaguet said, "when he should not have missed it."

Simond then left L.A. the next morning.

Upon his return from the United States, Joubert made the change official Wednesday evening in his hometown of Poitiers, France.

Simond, himself a skating champion in his time -- he won the European silver medal in 1982 and won compulsory figures consistently at the world championships in the early '80s -- took over Joubert's training in 2006, after Joubert finished a disappointing sixth at the Olympics in Turin. Under Simond's tutelage, Joubert medaled at every major championship he entered, and he won the world gold medal in 2007, silver in '08 and bronze in '09.

Joubert had consistently credited Simond for his results in 2007 and 2008, praising his superior coaching capacity.

"Now I have a real coach", Joubert said in 2007. "I do not have to think by myself about what I need to practice. Every session is carefully planned, and my success rate on every element is recorded."

By this winter, those happy feelings had visibly come to an end.

The 2008-09 season was certainly the least successful for the Joubert-Simond team. Tension between the two men became obvious as far back as the start of the current season. Last September, Joubert claimed that a blade-sharpening issue justified his poor showings at the first French national competitions he entered. Simond, he said, had not taken care of the problem (Joubert thought that 1960 world gold medalist Alain Giletti, who used to sharpen his blades, had not sharpened them correctly).

Last fall, Joubert did not even medal at the Trophée Eric Bompard, where he finished fourth. That was the first time he'd missed the podium at a Grand Prix event since the 2004-05 Final, a span of six events that included four gold medals. He recomposed himself to win the Cup of Russia one week later. But he then withdrew from the Grand Prix Final the next month. After that, he changed his free program and won gold at the European championships.

He went to the worlds in perfect form, both physically and mentally, and won the short program in spite of a faulty landing on the quadruple toe loop in his combination. His free program was, however, far from perfect, with a missed triple Axel on top of the double Axel mistake at the end of the performance.

Joubert has made numerous coaching changes in his career. He left his all-time coach Véronique Guyon after he reached his first international podiums. He then switched to Laurent Depouilly, with whom he won his first European gold medal. Joubert then elected to work with Russian-born Andrei Berezintsev but decided to switch to Simond after his poor showing at the Turin Olympics.

The main question now is, of course, who will Joubert select as his new coach. Gailhaguet strongly recommends that Joubert train in the U.S. or Canada, where coaching facilities are certainly the best in the world. Joubert is conscious that he needs "to be the best in jumps, but also in spins, steps, edges and artistic impression."

The French Federation started some contacts with Brian Orser and Kurt Browning.

Joubert, however, has repeatedly stated that he would not leave his home town of Poitiers.

"I would consider leaving Poitiers as treason," he said firmly. His home rink has even accepted to remain open throughout the summer, so he can avoid the trip to the Alps, as he did last summer.

Joubert mentioned that he would like to work with Tatiana Tarasova for the choreography of his new free program.

"She has always been good to me," he explained. Joubert would even consider going to Moscow one week every month to work with her. Such an option, though, remains to be confirmed.

Who then would coach Joubert while he is not in Moscow? Some of the star's close observers mention that he might come back to Depouilly. Some assume that he might accept to be coached by Annick Dumont, Gailhaguet's former wife and a renowned skating coach and TV commentator in France. Joubert trained with her last summer.

Some persistent rumors also mention that Joubert might elect to be coached by his mother, Raymonde. Although she can not be credited with any skating experience, she has closely and consistently chaperoned her son, whom she affectionately calls "my flee," a popular nickname in France. Appropriately enough, Joubert has jumped high and often since he was a young boy. She was even accredited as a "coach" in Los Angeles and remained close to her son throughout the event.

Such an option would be reminiscent of former world silver medalist Surya Bonaly, who was coached by her mother during the last seasons of her eligible career.

"My mother is the only person on earth I trust 100 percent," Joubert said.

Ms. Joubert has always been close to her son and imposed her own vision. She was the one who nominated Gailhaguet as her son's main advisor in 2005, at a time when Gailhaguet was a persona non grata in the French Federation and the ISU. She was also with her son earlier this season to help him through the blade-sharpening crisis.

This scenario, however, is not a viable option, according to French officials.

"This is impossible," one French judge said. "It would mean the end of his Olympic hopes. Brian is intelligent enough to know that he needs a real professional on his side. His mother knows it too," he added.

Meanwhile, time is flying by. Only 10 months are left before the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. Joubert is currently participating in a skating tour in France. He will then fly to Japan to represent France in the newly created ISU World Team Trophy.

After that, he will need to concentrate on finding the new coaching team that will help him reach his Olympic dream. If a deal with Tatiana Tarasova can indeed be signed, at least Joubert will have found a subordinate mother close by.

Editor's Note: Joubert will work with Depouilly until the ISU World Team Trophy. For full story, click here.