Tango – Angels and Demons
To start the new season, we first had to audition. We had a quiz to identify our personalities, physical tests, as well as an ice test. It was the latter that I found most interesting and that I loved. Our coaches had prepared us two drawings that matched the series of steps that we had to present, but for that, we should first read the diagrams in off-ice.
This moment reminded me of the previous season, where I had drawn the direction of the different turns for a girl on my team, so that she can make the difference between each.
Our first season remains in a sense a success: we had created a new team with good cohesion and we had had a good progression throughout the year. In addition, we knew that we had proven ourselves in the eyes of France and we were finally all on the same page: the girls of Louviers no longer dreamed of making the French Cup, they now wanted just as much as the girls of Rouen to qualify for the Junior World Challenger Cup.
In addition, a skater from Caen and a skater from Lyon joined our team. Our idea of bringing together the best skaters to create a French Team was finally being created.
We had the chance to choose our themes with our coaches, who asked us for our opinion. Just that I think it changes everything: if skaters love their music, it’s already 50% chance of doing good performances and enthralling the public. The rest is hard work and consistency.
We left for the city of Le Mans, for a week to build our new programs because the Rouen ice rink was closed for work. Once again, we called on Merja Lakkonen who did an excellent job.
At the end of the camp, we knew that we were not going to re-skate together before the end of August, that is to say within a month and a half. We therefore had to practice at home, off-ice, the steps of our new programs so as not to forget them, as well as follow a training plan to keep our physical condition. For my part, I had 5 weeks of summer-camp to continue to progress individually. A rather sporty summer, which I had chosen and which could not make me happier.
After my last summer-camp in Cherbourg (see previous article), the Team Synchro Energie was now back on the ice to prepare for our first deadline: Les Masters, in Lyon, in early November. Suffice to say that we never had competition as early in the season.
For this season, three competitions counted for the Selection Path at the Junior World Challenge Cup:
– French Championships
– French Cup
Suffice to say that the team that won 2 of the 3 competitions was qualified. So we had to be ready.
Our first competition of the season was also the first edition of the Masters synchronized skating version. It already existed for figure skating for several years, as a preparation competition for the new season allowing skaters to get in condition but also to have feedback on their new programs to allow them to improve before the international and national deadlines.
It was now up to synchronized skating to develop this rather interesting system and thus make our discipline penetrate within France and the French Federation.
The competition took place in Lyon, and we had to do our two programs, including our official practices, on the same day. Suffice to say that it was a rather busy schedule! We had a good short program, we were happy with our performance and our points. Black Diam’s, our only competitors, passed after us, and we were not allowed to watch. We went directly to the locker room to change, then head outside the ice rink to enjoy the sun and to stretch.
Our coaches stayed on the side, talked to each other but we had no communication about the results. I knew what it meant: we were second. And Camille, my friend and teammate confirms it to me: she got a message from her parents.
First reflex? « How many points apart? » I wanted to know if we were still far away or if we could fight to win the victory, the one we were impatiently awaiting. We were at something like 2 to 4 points difference. It was playable.
However, it didn’t change that I was disappointed. Disappointed because I felt like history was repeating itself for a second year. I wanted to win, I knew we could do it. I usually digest my emotions for the rest of the evening, and after that, I’m ready to go back to battle. This time, I had to be ready much faster: the long program wasn’t the next day but in a few hours.
Strangely, I only needed an hour maximum, perhaps also because it was necessary to warm up for the official practice of the free program. Besides, usually I don’t like it, but in the team we all agreed: we had to do the whole program during the official practice. We hadn’t done enough in training and to feel confident we needed it. Indeed, it was only our 3rd time, and the competition our 4th program executed from the beginning to the end.
And again we did a good performance, of course some mistakes here and there that will be fine-tuned for the future, but for the first time it was a success.
And this is seen and felt, we have received many compliments over our evolution vis-à-vis the previous season but also in relation to our programs. The audience liked it, the judges liked it too: we were first in the long program!
But that was not enough, and we stayed second overall. Annoying, but not even 2 points of victory, very encouraging. The season promised to be exciting.
Compiègne : 1 – Rouen-Louviers : 0
Back at training, we were motivated like never before: we were thirsty for victory. Not only because we were really close to the goal, but also because if we still wanted to have a chance to qualify, we had no choice: we had to win our next two competitions.
In addition, although we could not see the performances of Compiègne live, some parents had filmed and we had been able to see their programs. As much as the previous season I found them much better than us, especially since they were trying more difficult levels, as much this season we were playing in the same court. It was possible.
So we worked hard, we made the necessary modifications in our programs and we were finally ready for the French Elite Championships, in mid-December.
The competition took place in Marseille, in the South of France, in a brand new ice rink. It was like an inauguration, and it’s certainly one of the largest skating rinks I have seen in France. Today, it’s just a tragedy to have such an interesting ice rink and to do nothing with…
We took the plane to go to Marseille, and on the road to the airport, we recovered with my father two skaters because of the snow.
Once arrived in Marseille, we were in the official hotel, that is to say the one where were the judges and the members of the federation, with the Black Diam’s as well as the skaters of the other disciplines.
This is certainly the reason why these French Championships were one of my favorite competitions: we had the opportunity to be mixed with the other disciplines of our sport and to finally have the impression of belonging to the group. Unfortunately, this was not the thought of some athletes: « Synchro is for those who are not good enough to skate alone ». But it isn’t them who will spoil the happiness I had to be there.
The organization had decided on the order of passage instead of drawing lots: it would be the result of the past season in reverse order. We therefore had the honor of opening the competition with our short program. And we started with a little fright, nothing better for confidence!
In fact, one of my teammates, Marine, ended up with a blade problem. She was having trouble moving forward and braking and we hadn’t done anything with the program yet. Fortunately, her first reaction was to look under her blade, with the chance to find a piece of tape there!!
The short program could have turned into a disaster, but in the end, we had a good performance despite this somewhat panicky start.
I never liked removing my blade covers too early before a performance, and I can say that this story didn’t help me to be confident. You can be sure that I am always the last to remove them, and that I’m always checking that everything is correct until I have a foot on the ice, even today!
Despite everything, despite our good performance, it was still not enough. Again we were second. 3 to 4 points behind. Black Diam’s continued to dominate us.
Again, I was disappointed. I was wondering: what are we missing to finally win?
In addition, synchro was the last event of the day and during surfacing were able to see the stands emptied slowly. The public wasn’t interested in our sport, while most don’t even know it. It’s disappointing.
So like last year in Colmar, the free program event was moved before the men’s free programs. It was the only way to keep the audience, and I was fine with it. It meant we could watch the competition. We already had the chance to watch a small part of the women’s short programs, to encourage a skater from Rouen, Cyrielle, but I always preferred to watch men’s skating.
Despite the disappointment with the short program, there was one thing we were sure of: our free program was our strength and with it, maybe we could make a difference to win. Of course, it’s never the ideal solution to rely on a single program, but now, we had no choice.
The next day being another day, we were ready to fight to equalize. But before that, we had to make sure we had all of our skaters! Indeed, sharing the same hotel, but also share the same elevator, and sometimes not to be late we tend to be too many… This is what happened: about 10 skaters from Compiègne with 4 skaters from our team found themselves stuck in the elevator, not even two hours from leaving for the competition. With the rest of the team, we were in the process of making scenarios for the rest of the events: how we could still skate at 14, would they keep the result of the program short, but we didn’t ultimately need. In the next half hour, everyone was out, and we were finally ready for the warm-up.
We had a great chemistry, as if we said to ourselves, « take advantage of it because everything can end this evening » but at the same time, we had the feeling that this evening was for us, that we were invincible.
In our sport, everyone will say or think that it is not necessarily a good thing to go first in a competition. I would say that over the years it’s something relative, even more so when your name starts to have an impact.
We feel that we are not being judged at our fair value, or that the judges keep some leeway to raise the scores of the other teams if they are better. But going first sometimes also means being able to put pressure on others. Especially in our case.
We were the first on ice, which meant two things:
– We established the basic score, and when there are only two teams, everything is playable. Especially when you know that our long program is our strength.
– When our notes come out, our competitors will hear them before skating, and it’s something double-edged, you have to know how to manage the pressure and focus on your own performance.
We started our long program with the mentality that we had nothing more to lose. Because in ourself, we were in balance between equalizing or abandoning our dream here. In any case, we were fighters, and if everything had to stop there, then we would still go to the French Cup. It’s always nice to skate at home, but above all, just because everything was over, we couldn’t score a point at the French Cup.
Our program wasn’t perfect, we had errors here and there, but we did not give up, we gave our best. Whatever happens, we had nothing to regret, we did two great performances: the rest of our journey no longer belonged to us, we had done what we controlled.
We just had to wait for the performance of Black Diam’s. But if there is one thing to know, it’s that I’m the kind of person who likes to win when the victory is beautiful and fair: to be the best, you have to beat the best and if possible, when everyone skating at its best.
Anne-Sophie and Valérie didn’t want us to watch their performance. They must have pushed us towards the locker room, but we stayed in the corridor waiting. It seemed like an endless moment, especially once there was no more music. The notes were really taking a long time to come out. It shouldn’t be easy for our coaches either: possibly having to prepare as our dream, will still not be for this year…
For my part, I had followed Pauline, one of my teammates, at the end of the corridor, near a door that led to the ice rink. From there, we tried to see the program as best we could, but it was rather a failure.
Until the fateful moment: the announcement of the notes. I don’t know if it was my brain that wanted to protect me from the worst, or if the announcement of the notes in the microphone was not clear through the door, but I didn’t understand anything. However, I see Pauline cried for joy and running towards the team. Without hesitation, I follow her, it took me half a second to understand: we had just won.
I fail to realize and as long as someone told it verbally, I will not be able to believe it. I wanted our coaches to tell us. And when that was the case, there was an explosion of joy in the hallway, something unusual in the world of figure skating where silence reigns.
We were champions of France!
All our hard work for a year and a half was finally rewarded and it was a blessing. But also a relief, we were still in the race, we had finally taken our first step towards our goal: the qualification for the Junior World Challenge Cup.
And although the podium was a bit stupid, with just the captain and the rest of the team in the stands, that didn’t change our happiness, and this medal is one of the ones I cherish the most.
Compiègne : 1 – Rouen-Louviers : 1
Fun Fact: Who says victory, says Gala of Champions!
And although we wanted to win, it wasn’t necessarily planned in our schedule. Indeed, it was possible that we would miss our return flight!
I didn’t care for me to go home, I wanted to do the gala and watch the other skaters. Besides, it wasn’t easy to skate in the dark with few lights on the ice. Our performance wasn’t as good as the day before but we had just had a new experience, and above all, we were French Champions. Once our free program ended, we had to hurry to change to go to the airport. Only, 6 of us had to wait for one of the mini-busses to go back to pick us up, there was not enough room for everyone.
For me, the choice was obvious: if I waited, I could still watch some parts of the gala! 😉
Before the French Cup, we had the chance to do one last preparation competition in Berlin, Germany. It was a way of gaining experience and showing off on the international stage. As a new team, we had to get a place on the circuit.
In addition, we went to seek the return of judges and technical specialists to improve our programs before the big deadline. We wanted to put all the chances on our side. We didn’t do our best performances but it was a very beneficial experience especially since we were able to admire the biggest Senior teams afterwards!
So when we returned, we had 2 to 3 weeks, it seems to me, to make the necessary changes in our programs. And thanks to this competition, the motivation was stronger than ever.