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Soup du jour: Kostner's emotions 'indescribable'

French fans' unique cheering style; Skaters reunite for gala; Joubert and Amodio twizzle in unison

Carolina Kostner's career reached its apex in Nice, where she won her first world title.
Carolina Kostner's career reached its apex in Nice, where she won her first world title. (Getty Images)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(04/02/2012) - There is a tradition in France: After you have celebrated the whole night and finally decide to go to bed, you eat an onion soup. This tradition is still quite prevalent, especially on New Year's Eve.

To be fully honest, we have not slept much. At a quarter to one Sunday morning, several groups of skating fans were still waiting for their newly crowned heroes to leave the arena, in order to get autographs and take pictures with them. Then they all went celebrating on and on, as if to make that special day a day that would never end.

"I hardly slept at all," an exhausted Carolina Kostner admitted when she arrived at the rink Sunday morning to practice for the gala exhibition.

Let's take the time for an onion soup to conclude this fascinating week.

Audience's pressure

Kostner took the time to come back to the audience's cheers during the press conference following her win.

"The audience was quite loud, and it reminded me of the Turin Olympics, back in 2006. I was much younger then, and I was feeling so much pressure," Kostner said. "This time I completely forgot about the public and could concentrate without being overwhelmed. Finally now, six years later, I can change that experience.

Those French ...

Once and for all, the French audience in Nice will have been one of the loudest ever heard on the skating earth. The stands were not always full, but yelling and clapping did take up all the space. The French have a trick, though: They yell, but they also clap with their feet on the ground, so you don't see them moving. The French emblem is a rooster, but in fact they act like ducks: nothing visible upward but pedaling like crazy below.

Carolina's dreams

"Of course, when I was younger, I was trying to picture how I would react on top of a world podium," Kostner said after her victory Saturday night. "But when I dream of skating, it's usually not good dreams: I dream that I arrive late at the rink or my laces break or things like that. It's indescribable for me to finally reach my dream."

Wake up

There were not very many people in the main rink for the gala exhibition practice on Sunday morning. The lights were turned off. The rink was much (much) cooler than the night before. Purple, green and blue projectors gave the place a surreal look, as if you were alone on a strange planet. A big fan (a mechanical fan, I mean, not a skating fan) projected water steam over the ice. Skaters started arriving one by one, yawning and heavy looking, as most of them had been celebrating most of the night.

Brian Joubert gave a morning kiss to Yretha Silete, his French teammate. Jumps were slow to start, even though about 20 skaters were already practicing. They needed to wake up their muscles, inspiration, emotions -- and most of all, themselves. Yuzuru Hanyu, the men's bronze medalist from Japan, managed to land a triple flip, but his counterparts seemed to prefer to keep both feet on the ice for the time being.

In the "nowhere" room, where skaters usually warm up, only Alena Leonova was jogging. In fact, she was making a phone call at the same time. The speaker called Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran for their music, and Tran ran from the boards to the center of the ice, but Takahashi was not ready yet.

Akiko Suzuki, Kanako Murakami and Daisuke Takahashi gave one another a big hug and skated a few steps together. The French team convened, as Nathalie Péchalat, Fabian Bourzat and Florent Amodio stepped on the ice. The North Americans have grouped by the other gate to the ice. Ashley Wagner, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford sat on the small step that separates the ice from the ground. Except when Meryl Davis, Charlie White, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir joined them, there was not enough space, so they had to take turns. In fact, most skaters had not seen one another since their own competition, and now they could finally exchange news and have fun together.

French twizzles

Most skaters were now by the boards, waiting for instructions. Everybody started laughing at once: A strange ice dancing team was reaching the center of the ice. It was Joubert and Amodio. They were mimicking a dancing pair with ... maybe talent, but mostly great fun. They embarked on a series of twizzles, then another and then a third one, and launched general hilarity. They were even pretty much in sync, actually. Had they ever trained for that before?

Happy April Fool's Day from the French team!

What "Take a lift" really means

"A lift!" the announcer asked the pairs for their final bow. When Takahashi and Tran's turn came, Tran tried to climb over the shoulders of the diminutive Takahashi, much to the amusement of the audience. Well, it must be reported that the tryout was not too positive.

Then Maxim Trankov mimicked a beginner's shaking lift -- fortunately, without partner Tatiana Volosozhar on top of his arm.

The great thing, with all these champions, is that they are all great professionals, and they will quickly come back to real skating. The real gala will be a huge success, skated in front of a sold-out arena.

Onions' nostalgia

The two first days were vacation-style, with the good weather and good mood. Then, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, we did not even notice the weather outside and forgot to eat. It was work for everyone. Then on Saturday, even though work and concentration were at their peak, we noticed that the practice rink had closed, and we felt a strange feeling: nostalgia. Last day ... oh well ... onions also make you cry.

Figure skating has made one more step forward. Every skater and every nation will draw their own conclusions. Spectators, whether they were in Nice, or watching on television or icenetwork.com, will treasure the memories they have lived through these championships. The good thing about memories is that they come back from time to time as a piece of common history that we share.

Thank you to have followed us throughout. It was a delight for us all. And please come back!