The Artist – Jungles
The 2012 Spring Cup was, at this point in my career, my best synchronized skating competition. These shared moments had left me hoping for the best for this new season: it was this year or never.
The 2013 World Championships was held in Boston, USA, and I would want to participate. Firstly, because they are the Worlds, but also because they took place in the United States, a country, even a continent where I had never set foot.
To qualify, the coefficient system for each competition was still in place, and we had to participate in 3 competitions chosen by the French Federation of Ice Sports:
– Masters, mid-November, in Compiègne
– French Elite Championships, mid-December, in Strasbourg
– French Cup, at the beginning of February, in Rouen.
For the second year in a row, we were still 4 French teams to fight for qualification: Les Zoulous, Atlantides, Ex’l Ice, and us.
For the first time in 8 years, since choosing that skating would be my life, I took a vacation, while missing the start of the Synchro camp. It cost me a lot mentally to accept this « sacrifice », but I couldn’t wait to skate when I came back that I hoped to give my team a little more motivation!
Indeed, I had left for a fortnight in Corsica, with the family of my boyfriend at the time, Ydriss. We took the boat on Thursday evening, all night long, to reach mainland France. Arrived around 7:00 am in Marseille, we spent the day in the car to reach Rouen (Approximately 8:30 ride).
During the last hour on the road, I spent my time watching the time because I had only one goal: to get home early enough to join my team and skate. So much so that I practically wanted to send off Ydriss’ family, who were chatting over coffee with my mother to go to the ice rink. She must have given me several glares so that I could wait patiently and stop being disrespectful and ungrateful… Finally, 45 minutes later, we were heading to the ice rink!
Once at the rink, I was happy to see my friends again, my team. I had time to meet the new skaters quickly before heading to the coaches’ locker room. My mom wanted me to ask for permission to skate before I got on the ice. Hallelujah, my request has been granted!
I was starting to close the door when suddenly Valérie asked me: « But wait, did you just come back from Paris by car today? »
« No, from Marseille. » I said, closing the door. I had just crossed France by car, and I didn’t want to allow them to change their mind! However, I had time to see their smile: « There is only Agathe to do that… »
Absolutely. Two years earlier, after a school trip to Spain and a return trip that lasted 16 hours by bus, I was doing double jumps on the ice of Louviers, 45 minutes after my arrival. My mother had prepared my skating bag for me to change in the car!
This is also how I met Rouen’s new ice dance coach, Martial, who will help the team from time to time.
Our season had resumed on August 20, on the 24th for me, and we were in the middle of creating programs, which was later than usual.
In any case, barely with my foot on the ice that I found my bearings. I watched what my team had created and learned my new steps at the same time. In 2 minutes, I had caught up.
On September 22, 2012, the Forum des Associations took place in Rouen. It was an event that allowed, every year, to promote the sport in the city and for us, especially synchronized skating. We demonstrated our warm-up choreographies that we did off-ice, on a mini platform, in front of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Rouen. Suffice to say the most popular square in the city. It was a really fun experience but also weird since we weren’t skating.
In October, we participated in a synchro regrouping with other synchronized skating clubs from Normandie and Nord-Pas-de-Calais. For the occasion, and the second consecutive year, the League of Normandie had called on Marilyn Langlois to frame the seminar.
Besides, she stayed longer especially to train us. For the TSE, it was a golden opportunity.
Marilyn made a lot of changes in our programs. Valérie and Anne-Sophie asked her not to change the places, to ensure that despite everything, we find our initial place in the choreography. She agreed but will do whatever she wants anyway. I just love it.
In the short program, she only changed a few steps here and there. There have been more important changes in the free program. Moreover, she taught us the same pattern for our arabesques as for Les Suprêmes Senior. So cool!
Fun Fact: Amaury, one of my new teammates, was talking to me while Marilyn was giving us a correction. Suddenly she stopped talking and was looking at us. Her look said it all, she waited for someone to shut up to continue her explanation. I felt myself blushing and being uncomfortable: I never wanted this to happen again! Mission accomplished!
In any case, in a week of training with her, we have improved a lot. I don’t even dare to imagine the result that we could have, in terms of points but also in skating if we had had her all year!
With these changes and the difficulties brought to the programs, we were ready for the 1st competition!
Our first competition of the season was the Masters and it was now the turn of the city of Compiègne to organize the competition. For the occasion, our theater teacher, Nicolas, gave the team two stuffed animals as a lucky charm: one was nicknamed « Fly-Panda » and the other « Nicoppotame ». They came with us to every competition, and we even had a ritual with the stuffed animals before going on the ice.
For our first time, we performed well in our short program. Unfortunately, we were in third place with 36.55 points. It was a small disappointment. Atlantides grabbed first place with 41.74 points and Les Zoulous was second with 40.13 points. Ex’l Ice was in fourth place with 32.39 points. It showed that the team had worked hard and was making progress.
The points gap was still quite large, it was going to be difficult to take first place. The Selection Path for the World Championships started rather badly for TSE. Also, our short program wasn’t so appreciated by the judges… One thing was certain, we would have changes to make when we got back.
After the small disappointment of the day before, a new day began for a new battle! It was time to present our new free program. As our official training was in the afternoon, we ate before. We were at the Buffalo Grill, a restaurant with a cowboy vibe, and each member of the team, along with a few of our supporters, left with a paper hat that looked like an Indian tribal chief’s headdress. We even wore them next to the rink, while waiting to get on the ice for our practice. The audience looked at us with wide, astonished eyes, but we felt that we had nothing more to lose. So there was only one thing left to do: enjoy the day and above all, have fun!
The previous team had finished and were already out of the ice. So it was our turn to go on the ice for our official practice. While eight of the team’s skaters were on the ice, the panel asked us to come out. We were ahead of schedule… Let’s start again!
After these little anecdotes of the day, it was finally time to get ready for the competition! We performed well in our free program. We got 76.74 points for our free program. It was an honorable score and we were happy. We still had to wait for the performances of Atlantides and Les Zoulous.
I love great victories! Both teams performed well, but we got the best score in the free program! It was a big surprise for us! The first three teams were each separated by one point: Zoulous wins the competition with 114.80 points, having won neither of the two programs. We finish in second place with 113.29 points and Atlantides third with 112.77 points!
Scores so close that I had false hopes. I thought we were going to win this time around. However, this remains encouraging for the future: anything is possible!
Back home, we had a month to prepare for the French Elite Championships and thus win the title. It was almost my biggest dream: to win this competition. Because that meant being the best team in France, especially at the senior level. In junior, even if we win the title, the Seniors are still better than us, this wasn’t the case. We were determined to win.
For that, we put all the chances on our side: as soon as we returned from Compiègne, or even already on the way back, a decision was taken. We would change the first part of our music from the short. Goodbye, first part of The Artist, hello « Cell Block Tango » from Chicago to be more mature.
I wasn’t convinced by this change, for me, we were wasting precious time. We had to rework the entire first part of our program on new music when we could have used that time to work on the technique of our elements to validate them. Also, this new music didn’t speak to me, it was a difficult change to accept. It was necessary to appropriate a piece of new music.
This was felt in Strasbourg, during the French Championships. After the short program, we were once again in third place, so some of us wondered about this decision: Why did we change the music?
We had only gained one point and a half compared to the previous competition. Our score was 38.02 points, Atlantides was second with 39.57 points, and Zoulous took the lead with 42.60 points. Ex’l Ice, meanwhile, was fourth with 36.56 points.
The battle will be tough, but we were hoping to get that first place, which once again was slipping away from us. In the meantime, we took advantage of the evening to watch the rest of the competition.
For the first time, these Championships included the presence of two new disciplines: ice ballet and speed skating. This new breath of fresh air was nice and mean a big step for them within the federation: they were gaining in recognition.
For us, our free program was our strength: we finished second in the Masters thanks to him and our first place in the long. We hoped to do the same and even better. As usual, during this competition, the ice rink is too small to accommodate everyone, so that the 4 teams shared a large locker room. However, before our performance, Anne-So wanted to take us away to refocus our concentration. We gathered near the speed skaters’ locker room for a final motivational speech before skating. What do I remember? Not much to tell the truth but certainly something like « We must give everything, we will seek the title! » But that I already knew. I was more interested in the speed skaters who were further away, simply because I didn’t need to be reminded of what to do, and listen stressed me out more than anything else. I needed to shift my focus to something else for a moment. Then with all the hubbub, I had trouble hearing.
I was already ready to go to war, I had the same determined gaze as Anne-Sophie.
I no longer remember the order, but I have a vague memory that Zoulous was skating after us. Ex’l Ice had a total score of 102.52 and Atlantides 111.25 points. With our good free program and our 77.74 points, we end with a total of 115.76 points. But it was not enough, Zoulous will get 78.99 points for a total of 121.69 points. We were once again second…
I was jaded. For me, it was over. Zoulous were qualified, we still won’t go to the World Championships this year. When I dared to say it out loud, Anne-Sophie immediately counter-told me: « No, everything is played at the French Cup! »
In a way, it was true. When we see the miracle of the Spring Cup the previous season, we could only hope to believe in it but above all, to work hard to make it happen again.
However, what is the probability that this kind of eventuality will occur a second time? Really tiny. We had to finish first French team in the French Cup and Zoulous had to be in third place or less. Because of the events, it was almost impossible…