Amodio, Meite seek prominence in different ways

French skaters have varying backgrounds but similar aspirations

As Florent Amodio learned, sometimes you have to take a step back to push forward.
As Florent Amodio learned, sometimes you have to take a step back to push forward. (Getty Images)


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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to
(12/02/2011) - Skaters are just like everyone: The best climb the ladder fast, then they peak and then they either stop or quit.

French skating is no exception. Brian Joubert is not yet contemplating the end of his career, but he acknowledges that his peak may be behind him. Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat are reaching their own peak years.

Two newcomers are now pushing strong upwards: Florent Amodio, 21, who won the European gold medal in 2011, and Maé Bérénice Méité, 17, who keeps improving from one competition to the next. Their progression is quite different, though, as the former just missed his two Grand Prix assignments, and the second keeps climbing.

Amodio is on the mend ...

Amodio did not hesitate to blame himself after his fifth-place finish at the Trophée Eric Bompard in Paris three weeks ago.

"Okay, my European title last year was very important for me, and it was amazing to win it," he said. "But afterwards, I lost myself."

Amodio recognized that he took full notice of what happened and is now recovering from it.

"Actually, the big turning point for me took place at Skate America, seven weeks ago," he said, "And I am glad it happened. Now I should be back on track." Amodio, who was skating for a medal in Ontario, Calif., finished a disastrous ninth place.

"Skate America has allowed me to find the Florent from before again. Believe it or not, that original Florent was gone!"

Amodio explained that he really let it go after his last worlds in Moscow (where he took seventh place): "It's quite normal for a 21-year-old guy," he said. "Yet it is absolutely not possible for a guy who wants to win an Olympic medal," he quickly added.

"My summer was overbooked. I traveled a lot. I enjoyed skating at those huge exhibitions in Korea with Yu-Na Kim, I enjoyed the media hype and I was making money. Finally, I could start making a living with what I loved! Wasn't that just beautiful?

"So altogether, I was happy with the life I had, and I just forgot the basis on which I had built myself until then. I just lost me in the process!"

Amodio arrived in Paris for the Trophée Eric Bompard after an intensive three-week training session in Russia with his coach, Nikolai Morozov.

"After Skate America, my coach told me: 'This is the best thing that could have happened to you. Without that failure, you would not have been able to ever become a champion.' He was right.

"I could have ended my career, as happy as I was with the life I had. I simply had forgotten the main foundations of the house: work."

In Russia, Amodio worked again on his quad. "The one good thing we did last summer, fortunately, was to work on the quad so that I could try it as soon as the season started. We also created two great programs. Yet we had to rework the quad almost from scratch. We changed the preparation for it; now we have a much more precise rhythm going into it."

Morozov and Amodio have also been working on every defect the program had, from spins to step sequences. "So now I am really looking forward to skating those programs again," Amodio said. "Now I am back on track! And I have a real joy skating again.

"I made the mistake on time. I did not lose too much, at least I hope. I do not think it was that bad altogether, but it could certainly have been far worse!"

... And Méité is on the rise

As soon as she appeared on the junior circuit, Méité impressed with her athleticism and ability to land her triple jumps.

"Yet this is far from enough," Méité said. "It shows a lot in my component marks." She finished sixth at the Trophée Bompard.

For the last two seasons, she has been working with Katia Krier in Paris, and she has managed to tame her own femininity and artistry on the ice.

"My new programs help me to work at it," she explained. "It requires a lot of work -- a lot off the ice, then on the ice. It is coming slowly, and I love to be able to express myself more. Also, people keep telling me that I keep improving, so it is quite encouraging for me."

Still, this not an easy path for Méité: "You need to be fully concentrated all the time, as no improvisation is possible there."

She created her two programs with Karine Arribert, a renowned ice dancing coach in Villard de Lans, in the French Alps.

"It is a great experience for me," Méité said. "I work regularly with her, and she helps me improve my skating skills and my edges, and also the way I express myself."

Another way Méité has improved her expression is through Theatre on Ice. She has been skating with her club in the suburbs of Paris for several seasons.

"I really enjoy it," she said. "Theatre on Ice is a great sport, because you learn to convey a story. Also, it is a team sport, and you need to open yourself! I really hope my schedule allows me to keep skating on the team."

While improving her expression on the ice, Méité also works at improving her technical elements. She is now landing her triple toe to triple toe combination regularly in the short program, as she did at the Trophée Bompard.

"This is simply daily work to do," she said. "I am landing triple Lutz to triple toe in practice, but not in actual competition."

With the World Championships to be held in Nice, only a few hundred miles south from home, Méité hopes to qualify and then "give the very best of myself there and skate among the best girls in the world."

Méité is a rising skater, but she is also a great girl trying to grow in her own life. An only child, she is currently a regular high school student and hopes to graduate next June.

"I love foreign languages, and I am basically fluent in English and Spanish," she said. "Skating does help me develop those languages. I could have majored in languages but I preferred to major in sciences, because of the studies I want to start afterward."

Méité is quite passionate about what she intends to do next: "I would love to become a perfume maker," she said. "A 'nose,' as we say in French. My goal would be to learn the trade in a school abroad and then come back to France to start working. Yet the Olympics are coming up, so I may work between high school and grad studies. The future will tell."

The first stage for Méité is to win at French nationals, in a little more than two weeks, to secure a spot at the European and World Championships. By then, Amodio should be back to his normal self for good. Who knows then where those two will stop?