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Joubert wins seventh national title in France

Pechalat, Bourzat win dance crown

Brian Joubert earned his seventh career French national title.
Brian Joubert earned his seventh career French national title. (Getty Images)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(12/19/2010) - Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat confirmed their golden season; adding a sixth gold medal in seven competitions this fall. Brian Joubert finally managed to add a seventh national gold medal to his résumé in what was in fact the biggest surprise of the 2010 French Nationals just held in Tours, in the middle of the Loire Valley.

Ice Dance: Péchalat and Bourzat, of course
Péchalat and Bourzat won their second national title, and proved how regular and steady their progress has been this season. They missed hitting the 100-point mark in the free dance by less than a half point.

"It was important for us to win here," Péchalat said afterwards.

"We'd love to stay up there for a few years!" Bourzat added. "Not very many dancers in the world are able to make 100 points in the free. "It is a good statement for us to make before going to Europeans."

Bourzat apparently did not suffer too much from his torn muscle, and the duo should benefit from a solid two week rest to come back into shape.

"We really have to push ourselves hard," Péchalat said. "What we are really aiming at, now, is the European gold medal. If we do win it, then of course we will be fighting for something big at worlds."

Pernelle Caron and Lloyd Jones managed to skate two solid performances and took the silver medal, almost 25 points behind Péchalat and Bourzat.

Zoé Blanc and Pierre-Loup Bouquet won the bronze medal.

Ladies: Silete's first
Yrétha Silete had favorably impressed French skating this fall with her performances at the Junior Grand Prix (she finished fourth in Courchevel), but the ladies national competition was nonetheless quite open, with three other ladies ready to win as well: Candice Didier, a former national champion, Maé-Bérénice Meité and Léna Marrocco, the 2009 gold medalist.

There was a general motto from the latter three girls prior to the competition: "My first ambition is to win French Nationals," they all stated.

Silete won the short program three points ahead of her teammates and that proved enough for her to claim her first national title in the senior ranks, even though she finished fourth in the free program.

"This is very emotional," she said afterwards. "Reaching the top is such a long road. Now I hope I can be selected for the European championships."

"I am not too confident," Lena Marrocco, the 2009 national champion, had said before the competition. "I was injured last summer, and I know that I need to rest until I finish growing. So each time I hit a jump it is like a miracle to me!"

Marocco still has a great glide. "In fact, we take it from the U.S. American skaters are our reference in Annecy, where I train [close to the lake of Geneva]. During warm up our coach always yells: 'skate American!', to push us increase our presence on the ice and quality of skating."

Marrocco could not finish higher than third in the free and fourth overall.

Maé-Bérénice Meïté, took the bronze. Surprise winner of the free and second overall was Lenaëlle Gilleron-Gory. As for Didier, she missed her free program and ended in sixth position.

Pairs: Bonheur is back
The new national gold medalist pair is new, yet not unknown to skating aficionados. When Yannick Bonheur, a former Olympian with Marilyn Pla (in 2006) and Vanessa James (in 2010) proposed Adeline Canac to skate with him, at the end of last season, it was "only to skate in exhibitions," Bonheur explained.

Canac, who had been skating with Maximin Coia for a few seasons, had failed to qualify for the Olympic Games last year, and she was ready to quit skating. In fact, skating together has proved a new road to success for the Canac and Bonheur. They won the French Masters only three months after having resumed training, and won again, even more convincingly, their first national championship together.

"I am so grateful, you know," Canac said afterwards. "Also, we have so many things to work on. We have a great potential of improvement ahead of us!"

Vanessa James, who finished 12 twice at worlds (Los Angeles in 2009 and Turin in 2010), has started to skate with Moran Cyprès, who used to skate in singles before. The duo however thought it was too early to skate in Tours.

Men: Joubert's new surprise
Florent Amodio was eager to prove in Tours that he was the new "boss" of French male skating, after the two medals he won during the ISU Grand Prix Series (he finished third at the NHK Trophy and second at the Trophée Eric Bompard). Amodio, unlike Joubert, had managed to qualify for the Grand Prix Final (where he ended in sixth place).

Amodio's short program however proved that he would not be able to stand up to his ambitions. In a never seen occurrence from his part, he nearly failed his triple Axel, fell on his triple flip and again in his step sequence. He ended in third place after the short, more than 10 points behind Joubert and seven behind Alban Préaubert.

The big question in Tours, of course, was to find out whether Joubert could be back to elite skating after his withdrawal from the Trophée Eric Bompard. Although he did not quite convince anyone in Tours, he won the short program. He had to add a loop after his quad toe but could land his double toe right after, and then he had to fight to land a clean triple Lutz.

"I'm happy", he said afterwards. "For once I managed to master my program, instead of being mastered by it. I did not only follow it. This was not an exceptional skate, but it was as good as I can do. You know, I am here to reconstruct myself and regain confidence. I am here to do me some good!"

Amodio's free program was up to the new standard he has set for himself. He won decisively, as he had promised to do, even though he could not catch up with Joubert and had to settle for the silver medal.

Meanwhile, Joubert and his coach Véronique Guyon decided to play it tactical -- for once. Joubert did not attempt a quad in his free skate for the first time in eight years.

"My confidence relies heavily on the quad," Joubert had explained. "I need to be 100% on the quad at practice if I want to be confident on it." Joubert skated a faultless program afterwards and finished second of the free, 0.70 point behind Amodio.

"Now I am proving that I am still the boss in France," Joubert concluded. "I am not ready to surrender yet, even though the young want to take over, which is quite normal!" He won his seventh national title in Tours.

As for the future, Joubert hoped that "in a month, for the Europeans, I should be ready. But I still have a lot of work to do."