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Pechalat and Bourzat: Our goal is gold, not bronze

World bronze medalists reveal long-formulated plan to usurp Virtue and Moir, Davis and White

Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat are serious about being the best couple in the world.
Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat are serious about being the best couple in the world. (Getty Images)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(10/31/2012) - The Cup of China will be the season opener for Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat, who won the bronze medal at the 2012 World Championships in Nice. This season, the duo announced its ambition clearly: "We do not fight for the bronze in Sochi," a determined Bourzat said boldly. "We will fight for the gold."

"You have to understand that we have counted backwards from Sochi," Bourzat further explained. "Back in 2010, in Vancouver, we said that we would be aiming at four European gold medals and one world gold medal for the years to come."

"We have been doing this sport for 20 years now," Péchalat added with a nod. "Until now, we did not want to disclose it. It was maybe a bit too early. But now we are ready. We have always scheduled to be at our top at Sochi. We are only one year and a half away from it. We have always been modest in our approach, but with only 18 months to go, we can talk the truth."

"So this year, we will fight for the gold at worlds," Bourzat emphasized. "It was, of course, very nice to win a bronze medal at worlds, but this was not gold, and we did not get the Marseillaise (the French national anthem).

"We need to look for the very top," he said. "So, we go into this season to win. This is a frame of mind, and I think we just scheduled our careers to make it happen that way."

The duo's attitude is not only a frame of mind, though. Never had Péchalat and Bourzat been more prepared than this season.

"The reason is simple," Bourzat explained. "We have taken all galas and shows out of our schedule last summer. So, we were ready much earlier for the major events to come."

Still, Péchalat and Bourzat had to struggle hard to devise and package their new programs. They have kept the creative drive that has become their trademark through the years.

"Each program has to be a true creation in itself," Péchalat emphasized again. "It has to have a meaning, tell a story."

"We do not want to do basic skating as so many other teams do," Bourzat said. "As we have always professed, this is not just sport: It's dancing, and the whole body has to move."

Péchalat and Bourzat decided to announce their musical themes for this season as early as June, which surprised most observers.

"Why hide them?" Péchalat suggested. "We are glad to give some indications to interested people and fans. We also displayed one or two pictures to give some indication, but of course that did not tell much of the approach we were taking for both programs. This way, surprise could remain.

"I sincerely prefer to announce our themes myself, rather than having rumors circulating around," she said. "Ten years ago, each team really wanted to protect their themes so that no one would copy them. That was quite understandable, as the artistic side was so important at the time. Nowadays, lifts and technical elements are much more important than theme.

"Also, announcing our theme in advance may encourage some competitors to choose different themes themselves, so that each one has their own."

Péchalat and Bourzat have never been great fans of conventional music -- or skating. At the end of last season, Bourzat had even expressed some doubts about the compulsory Polka the duo would have to skate this season.

"It will be so much fun!" he had said in Nice, with a grin showing his lack of motivation.

As they do with each one of their programs, he and Péchalat went into deep thought and research to find a different approach that would meet the requirements, please the audience, fit their style and motivate them. This time, they decided to insert a Waltz rhythm into a French can-can.

"We wanted to choose a rather modern theme," Péchalat explained. "We opted rapidly for a French character. Also, we wanted something fun and enthusiastic like can-can is."

The duo took their Waltz rhythm from a song created by French singer Edith Piaf and sung by movie actor and singer Yves Montand, "Sous le Ciel de Paris" (or "Under the Skies of Paris").

"This adds a romantic touch to the program," Péchalat said. "We really wanted something more urban and elaborate than a country Polka".

Altogether, the duo received warm compliments from judges and officials alike when they displayed their program for the first time last month during the French Masters.

"The program is technically difficult," Bourzat offered. "But it is fortunately well-balanced physically, although it is quite difficult in our feet."

They decided to skate their free program to a Rolling Stones medley. Traditionally, the lengthy research process allows Péchalat and Bourzat to make each of their programs a special masterpiece that belongs only to them. This year's will be no exception: Rather than just "the Stones," this program will be also be "Péchalat's and Bourzat's."

"It's a theme from the 1970s, obviously," Péchalat said. "So, we decided to approach it from a hippie point of view. There are just three short sequences of rock and roll because the music is such. Yet, we did not want to go into the "black and red" cliché of the Stones with a big open mouth and the tongue outside of it!" she said with a smile. "Our approach is more into freedom and fun. We skate more contemporary to our slower sequence and groove-like on the faster sequence."

"Two months ago, this program was a nightmare to skate," Bourzat recalled. "Even our coaches were wondering how it was possible to skate it."

"Actually, they never told us," Péchalat added with a smile. "But they asked Laurie May, our choreographer!"

Will these two programs take them to the gold medals they are aiming for? The first stage of their quest is opening now.