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The creation of a Team

2008-2009 Season
Diamonds – Bollywood

To be part of the selection path for the 2009 Junior World Challenge Cup, it was necessary to participate in the competitions chosen by the Federation, that is to say:

  • The French Elite Championships, in Colmar, mid-December

  • An international competition taking place in Prague, Czech Republic, at the end of January

  • And the French Cup, international competition held in France, Rouen, and so consequently home.

The team winning at least two of the three qualifying heats, that is to say finishing in front of the other French team, is qualified to represent France at the Junior World Cup.

The setting up of the new team between the clubs of Rouen and Louviers was fast.
In addition, with our new rather large ambitions, our coaches have called Merja Lakkonnen to set up our programs. It was the first time I worked with a Finnish coach and English appeared to me as something important. In Finland, synchronized skating is known to be the national sport and having Merja with us was a real opportunity.

In one week at the end of June, in Rouen, she set up our two programs. Despite our level, it was the first time that I had two programs with so many challenges at the technical level, without feeling myself in difficulty.

Avec Merja, en 2010, au stage du Mans.
Photo datant de la saison 2010-2011

The biggest problem in France, and especially for synchro teams, is that it’s difficult to ensure continuity of training during the summer. The majority of rinks close for a minimum of one and a half months: with the heat of the summer and the lack of investment in the maintenance of the necessary machinery, the ice isn’t practicable. What was the case for us, our season didn’t resume until mid-August in Rouen, and towards the end of September – beginning of October in Louviers.
Despite this, we had a training plan to follow: revision of programs and timings as well as physical preparation exercises such as jogging and weight training. For me, it was to do in addition to what my summer-camp reserve for me!

Our first competition took place in Le Havre, a week before the French Elite Championships in December. We were the only team in this category so we won.
But the main goal was to get to know each other as teammates, to have a first experience together and of course to see if the work done so far was paying off. This rehearsal for the French Championships was a success, we were motivated more than ever!

The following weekend, we were in Colmar with the goal of winning the French Elite Championships.
This event brings together all disciplines of skating, that is to say the Figure Skating, Ice Dance and Pairs. Synchro was subsequently added, followed closely by the Speed Skating and Theatre on Ice.

The word « Elite » is used to differentiate it from other French Championships: it is the most important to win in terms of caliber. It allows to determine in other disciplines that will represent France at the European Championships, the World Championships and even the Olympic Games. The skaters must qualify to participate, the competition brings together the best French hopefuls. The event ends on Sunday with the Champions Gala.

Regarding the Synchro, until 2010 the junior category participated in this competition, before being included in the Junior French Championships with the other figure skating disciplines. During my 5 participations, it was always difficult to find its place as a synchro skater and to feel integrated by the other disciplines/skaters.

It was our first meeting with our only French competitors, Black Diam’s of Compiègne. To say we wanted to beat them was a euphemism: we really wanted to prove ourselves. Unfortunately it was a big disappointment, and they finished first with twenty point lead! Great disappointment, but even greater motivation. It was only the beginning of the challenge.

After the Short Program, at the Elite French Championships

But we still had two victories during this weekend: the first is that the passage of synchro long programs were moved before the men free programs, so that the public stays and looks at us. It was a way to interest people in our discipline and to make Synchro known in France!

The second was that the organizers of the competition had enjoyed our long program, so we were invited to the Champions Gala on Sunday. Basically, only the winners in synchro had participated in the show.

In January, the Jeanne d’Arc – Mozaïk flew away for her first international competition in Prague, and it was quite an adventure!

First, Camille had dropped his ID card in the mini-bus. Because of that, she couldn’t board the plane!
After negotiations with the security agents, they agree to let her go with a photocopy, but saying that she will not be able to come back without the original. Fortunately, the parents came to attend the contest and left the next day : so they brought her identity card.
The rest of the trip went pretty well until we arrived at the hotel. The bus driver explains to our managers to pay attention to girls, especially to younger ones… The bad image of Eastern Europe isn’t a myth. When he was already gone, we learned that we weren’t dropped off at the right hotel…

With our suitcases, we set out to conquer the Prague metro. And the advice of the bus driver was true: at the exit of the subway, a person tries to block me the passage and to take my identifier of suitcase… Luckily, he finally left me alone and returned with his group of friends while I tried to avoid him to join the rest of my team. I can say that I was even more vigilant for the rest of the trip!

Concerning the competition, it was a good first experience to confront other nations and to live a first international competition with this new team. We skated a good short program, and despite a fall in the long, the rest of the program went well. We finish behind Black Diam’s, however the points gap between the two teams was reduced.

We left early Sunday morning, but on arriving at the airport, we learn that our flight was canceled.
For 9 hours we were stuck in Prague waiting to leave with another plane. The reason ? It was snowing in Paris…
To conclude this magnificent day, one of our three mini-bus ended up with a flat tire on the Parisian ring road … The homecoming was as complicated as we arrived in Prague!

Left: Representation of our 9 hours of waiting at the airport / Middle: Team photo in the downtowm of Prague / Right: The stress rises before the short program …

The last qualifying competition was the French Cup, at the beginning of February in Rouen, as well as in our ice rink.

It was the first time I took part as a skater: a dream come true for me, but for my friends Louviers.
It was a memorable experience: be it the day of the short program with the schools in the stands that shout so loudly that we can’t hear the music because we representing France; that the long program with all our friends and family, came to encourage us. It was the first time I skated in front of so many people and it was an incredible experience.

In addition, our point gap with Compiègne was less and less important to the short program, but they had a long program with more technical difficulties and therefore no surprise, they qualified for the World Junior Challenge Cup by winning all rounds of qualification.

French Cup 2009
The 15th edition!

Despite a little disappointment even if it was predictable, the most important for me at that time was that we had just created a team with good potential and who had progressed throughout the season to get closer of its goal. It only remained to work, time would take care of the rest.

In the world of skating, we must first prove ourselves before deserving a chance, which is unfortunate in some cases, but it is the unwritten law. We were no exception, and that’s why I finally agreed to be discovering this unknown world during this year. Regarding the next season, it was another story: that one, I intended to win.

Anecdote : At the French Cup, we learned that we would have a new team name: Team Synchro Energie. Anne-Sophie had told France 3 Normandie before we announced it officially! Lack of luck, we saw the report before she could tell us! 😀

To end the season, we participated in the last competition in Valenciennes in northern France. It was a mixture of pleasure, with our victory, but also the promotion of our team. It was a way to show our progress and to try to attract new skaters before the launch of the auditions.

After such a memorable season and a team that got along as well, it was difficult for us, the team’s creators and therefore the « old », to accept to change their name and to welcome new skaters.
We had nothing against them, it was just that we wondered how we could spend a year as exceptional as the one we had just experienced.
And yet if we had known, we would have traded this season against a dozen like the one after… 😉

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