Soup du jour: Czisny trying to keep her head up

Péchalat, Bourzat endure hardships; Cinquanta defends qualifying rounds; Lucine entertains royalty

Alissa Czisny says she puts everything she has into her skating performances.
Alissa Czisny says she puts everything she has into her skating performances. (Getty Images)


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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to
(03/30/2012) - When the "soup du jour" is a bouillabaisse (which may be the case on the French Riviera), you need to prepare the ingredients the night before you make it. So let me go back to yesterday for a while.

Tribute to an artist

The first part of today's notes is dedicated to Alissa Czisny. The nightmare we all lived yesterday is still present today. The whole arena was completely depressed when she fell so heavily in her short program. She nonetheless remains a great champion and one of the truest artists. She struggled with her elements all week long but always managed to display an incredible "touch" of ice and emotion. Czisny brings so much soul into each of her practices and performances.

"It's the only way I know how to skate," she offered. "I can't skate without giving everything I have, both physically and emotionally. Nothing out there is pretend. It's all real.

"As I mature, my skating is maturing as well. But yes, it is a big investment," she acknowledged.

Maybe that's why she is so revered on every continent. With or without the technical tricks.

(By the way, Czisny skated a much better practice Friday morning.)

President Cinquanta "extremely satisfied"

Monday and Tuesday were two full days of qualifications for the "non-direct entries." Many journalists thought that they were too long and expressed those sentiments to ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta during his press conference Thursday night.

"You have two theories," he explained. "The first one is that only the best skaters should compete. The other one is that all countries would like to have a chance to compete. So the ISU chose the best system to please everybody."

The only problem is that no one is really interested in the qualification rounds.

"Plus, they take two days!" revered skating journalist Sandra Stevenson added.

Cinquanta also took the time to talk about the Olympic team competition, which will make its début in 2014 in Sochi.

"The 10 best teams will be qualified at the end of next season, based on the results of the 2012 Grand Prix season and the 2013 World Championships," he said.

Carolina's giraffe

She had mentioned it Thursday evening at the end of the press conference concluding the ladies short program: Carolina Kostner would take advantage of the "day off" before the free skate to relax and enjoy. That same evening she came to watch the free dance for a while, in the corner of the stands. On her knees she had a small, plastic giraffe. The giraffe seemed cute and well tamed, except it was a blowing giraffe. So from time to time the giraffe would come and let out a loud "Wee! Wee!" sound, especially at the end of good programs. "Shhh!" Carolina would tell her giraffe, with a big laugh to her neighbors staring at her in the stands, but the giraffe would never shut up.

Obviously, Carolina is not ready for coaching (especially plastic giraffes!).

Team nose

Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat were gracious enough to revisit Péchalat's nose accident and the feelings they had these last two weeks.

"Those two weeks of practice were quite hard," a very emotional Péchalat explained. "We really doubted for a while. We had to slow down a bit, and we had to change a few things in our program, to make sure that my nose would not be hurt again.

"Actually Fabian had more pain than I had, as he was so frightened to hurt me again. He was always wondering if I was doing my elements through pain or if I could just do them. For a few days, he skated with his elbows close to him, and it was not so convenient!" she recalled.

"We had meniscus problem some years ago, we broke our wrist once, and now we broke our nose," Péchalat said.

"We're used to having rough moments." Bourzat added, laughing. "It's a habit for us!"

"Also, when we have those rough moments, it forces us to be even more together!" Péchalat concluded. "That's not so bad!"

That was already visible in her own words: She said "our nose," as if it were the "team's" nose.

Péchalat added that she would need to go to the doctor's, now that worlds were over.

Vocals in the world arena

Friday morning, tons of school kids took the world arena by storm. They sounded like a flock of migrating birds on their island. Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune," which was playing at the same time (Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov were practicing their free skate) gave a surreal impression to the scene.

Kids were yelling and chatting like a huge buzz, with their little soprano voices. In fact, they were the best of audiences for a practice. They cheered like crazy at every move, be it a lift, a spin or a death spiral. By doing so, they also reminded us that every move in skating was so special.

One century ago, "A single Waltz jump properly executed was followed with bravos," skating legend Pierre Brunet used to recall. Figure skating has evolved so much, but its essence has remained: It is still a performing sport, and one of the very top ones!

Entertain the prince and princesses

Kim Lucine was born and still trains in Annecy, France, where he is coached by his parents, Claudie and Didier. Still, he has elected to skate for Monaco for the last two seasons.

"It does not change much, though," Lucine explained. "I train the same way, and my personal objectives remain the same. But here, so close to home (Lucine calls Monaco 'home,' as Monaco is just a half hour away from Nice), I really wanted to skate well."

Prince Albert, Princess Caroline and Princess Alexandra came for the qualification rounds, and Lucine did entertain them: His free skate, set to Jungle Book, is hilarious.

"I do not have the same quality of skating as the top competitors," Lucine admitted, "So I need to find a different approach. I have chosen comedy. I like having fun. My free program to Jungle Book was designed in that [vein]."

The prince and princesses had fun ... and Lucine has now qualified for the free skate.

Hello from a distant past...

Every day, when the ice machine makes over the ice, after two groups of skaters, the first music to be played in the rink is an old tune: "Valse des Patineurs" ["Skaters' Waltz"], by composer Meyerbeer. That music used to be a skating "hit" in the 1920s and '30s (just like Carmen and Swan Lake today), when live orchestras were playing to accompany skaters in their competitive routines. A link to those champions from back then, who led skating to where it is today...

Swedish neighbors

What happens when you have an article to write for your readers and try to focus, and all of a sudden three beautiful Swedish ladies, dressed in deep blue and yellow (the Swedish colors) feathers and hair, wearing similar blue and yellow makeup all over their faces and Swedish flags on their cheeks, come sit in the row just behind you? Well, you decide that you have to smile, because at one point or another, television will catch you!

Let's go find good fish for tomorrow's soup ... stay tuned!