Pechalat stays productive while Bourzat heals up

Ice dancer served as French team captain at Europeans, earned internship credits

Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat last competed at French nationals in December.
Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat last competed at French nationals in December. (Getty Images)


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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to
(02/20/2013) - "There is always something good in any mishap."

Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat could certainly comment endlessly on that French proverb. One one hand, the duo had to withdraw from the 2013 European Championships because of Bourzat's groin injury. On the other hand, Péchalat could be better for it: While Bourzat was curing himself, she cheered the French team on at Europeans and started working for the French Olympic Committee, writing articles and reports.

"We were sad, disappointed and frustrated, of course," Péchalat conceded, as the team was quite eager to attempt to win its third European title in three years.

Bourzat did not need any surgery to repair the muscle.

"What happened was that one of his three adductor muscles detached from the bone and went down about one inch," Péchalat detailed. "So now the only thing to do is to be patient and exercise, to stretch that muscle again and seal it to the remaining two."

After Bourzat went back to Lyon for treatment, Péchalat was left by herself, when she was asked to participate in the European championships as the French team captain.

"I had already experienced acting as team captain," Péchalat recalled. "It was during the 2012 World Team Trophy. Since then, my colleagues (Brian Joubert, Florent Amodio, Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès, Maé-Bérénice Méité) are calling me 'Capichef.'"

(In French, "capi" means "captain" and "chef" means "boss." Does that suggest Péchalat is sometimes a little "pushy"?)

It helped anyway, as Team France won the bronze medal.

"[Serving as captain], however, was quite different at these Europeans," Péchalat added, "As I was not in Zagreb as an athlete member myself. My objectives were clear, however: support my colleagues and be available for them and the staff."

When they heard about Péchalat and Bourzat's withdrawal, the other members of the team were quite supportive.

"I received really nice emails saying, 'Don't worry, Nath (Péchalat's nickname), we'll be there for you!' Then I answered, 'No, guys, it will be the other way around: This time I'll be there for you!'" Péchalat said.

French skaters fared rather well in Zagreb, as Amodio won the silver medal, while Joubert and pairs team James and Ciprès both finished fourth.

Péchalat also used the time away from the ice as an opportunity to work on her internship with the French Olympic Committee.

"I work for the communications department, and I am writing a number of articles for them," she explained. "Writing is something I really enjoy, and the Olympic committee agreed to fit their requests into my competitive schedule. Also, this internship will allow me to get some credit toward graduating from the Lyon School of Business." (Péchalat had been studying there prior to going abroad to train with Bourzat and is now one internship away from graduation.)

As a matter of fact, she has been quite active the last several years in the field of journalism. Besides being frequently invited on TV channels after the team's performances at Europeans or worlds, she has written a number of articles for newspapers. A year ago, she produced a whole report on the team's successful trip to North Korea. Her report covered the last page of the most-sold newspaper in France, the sports daily l'Equipe.

Now the team is back on the ice in Detroit and practicing for the 2013 World Championships.

"It's going rather well," Péchalat said. "We have not lost anything in terms of quality or technique. Physically, though, we need to practice hard to be in top form for worlds in three weeks. We, however, need to go step by step, as Fabian needs to be careful of how intense and how long he practices. He can skate about one hour and a half every day, just the time to review everything. We also exercise physically for about another hour and a half every day, through stretching, and specific muscle and cardio work. Fabian listens to his body very carefully, and we all adapt to his own rhythm."

Asked whether resuming training after such a problem was too difficult, Péchalat was quick to answer.

"Oh, no! Real life is starting again. It's work, work, work, and it's really better that way," she explained. "Before skating together again, Fabian and I started to review our programs off the ice, in order to identify what was still feasible and what was not. We had to stop, but not for long enough to forget any element of our programs. We have reached midseason, so we have them fully automatized by now. Things would have been much more difficult earlier in the season. Now, it's really cool to be together on the ice after all that time. Plus, we both love our programs, and we were really missing them."

Also, the team has not really lost any time.

"In fact, time has just been used in a different way than we had planned. Fabian and I have spent it thinking of next season. We would like to be ready as soon as possible. We would love to participate in a few exhibitions this year, particularly in China," Péchalat disclosed.

For now, the team's objective is clear.

"Worlds are around the corner, and after that we will have the World Team Trophy. The most important part of the season is still ahead! That's what we are now focusing on."