Translation of Elena Vaitsekhovskaya’s interview with Patrice Lauzon.
How do you manage to do this, Patrice? (meaning the success of his pairs)
– There is no secret. There is a wonderful team of coaches at our school in Montreal, and we do not divide the work, we do it together. I, Marie-France, Romain. We don’t have the position of the head coach. It is not needed when people adore their work and see meaning of life in it. The same way we try to maintain a very good energy of relationships between our pairs. I can say for sure that Madison (Hubbell) and Zachary (Donohue) are really friends with Gabby and Guillaume (Papadakis / Cizerein). They train on the same ice, compete, push each other forward, but all this is not a fight, but a game. Both pairs perfectly understand that such work is the most effective way to become better.
I readily believe that it’s so in training, but how to remain friends when you are fighting for one medal?
– I agree, it’s harder. Although there hasn’t been an equal competition between these pairs yet. Such as Gabby and Guillaume faced when they began to train with Tessa and Scott. From the very beginning both duets realized that one of them will win the Olympics and another will lose. In such situation it is very important to explain the athlete that he always competes with himself, not with the rival. If you can become an improved version of yourself then chances of winning will rise automatically. Option “rip opponent’s throat” disappears in this scheme as unnecessary.
You said the words “to become better” so easily, but many dancers spend years on it, not achieving noticeable progress.
– It seems to me that there is no particular difficulty, especially with the new judging system. There is a protocol, there are marks. You can always see why you lost, and always know where is your weakness. That’s why I always start with this. I take the protocol into my hands and tell the athlete what and how he should correct. The rest is paperwork. After all it’s not hockey, tennis or boxing, where in order to win, you must want to overthrow your opponent meeting face to face, find his weak point and beat. Figure skating requires much more finer tools.
In addition, there is never a situation where one pair surpasses the other in everything. Well, yes, Madison and Zach do not have such skating skills as Gabby and Guillaume. But physically they are more powerful, they can do on ice what the French can not. From here completely different style of skating, different choreography, different artistic images. So in training, there is no need to compete in the same technical aspects – all are different. At the competitions first of all you need to cope with your program, to skate it as well as possible. At this moment it’s is not that important how your competitor skates or prepares.
In Russia, dance coaches often say that the main thing in the Olympic season is to hit with the program. Ekaterina Bobrova / Dmitri Soloviev did not in the past Olympic season, so they had to return to the old program. It seems that you haven’t such problem at all. Choosing a dance is it a technology or is it still a question of the inborn taste of choreographer? Is there anyone in your team who has the right of deciding vote?
– Deciding vote? I’m not sure that this concept applies to our team.
Then how the choice of dance, music, costumes goes?
– Each of us is looks for a music one way or another, because you never know where the search will end. Marie-France mostly engaged in choreography, nevertheless, sometimes, of course, there are situations when there are a lot of music, but it “does not work” on the ice. I can not say that this happens often: we have about six different specialists working in our team, sometimes their number grows to a dozen, so there is always a chance that someone will tell you the right way out.
It’s cool when there are a lot of opinions. During choreographing period we often invite judges to the rink. After all judges tend to look at programs in their own way, so it’s important not to try to convince them that you did some cool work, but to hear comments and take them into consideration. If you remember last year’s free dance of Gabby and Guillaume, it was quite unusual, very different from anything we saw in ice dancing in recent years. Gabby and Guillaume fighted with this dance all season, it really annoyed them, and I saw that in fact the dancers just were not ready to cope with the choreo, can not skate it through.
The turning point came only at the World Championships, where everything coincided: understanding of dance, emotions, quality of elements. This I consider to be a rather revealing example of what many of my colleagues call “do not hit with the program”. A huge number of dances in our sport at different times were ranked as unsuccessful, although they actually simply were not ready. Yes, sometimes patience is needed, a certain conviction. It’s not easy, especially when the judges tell you from all sides that everything is bad.
This usually happens at a stage when the competitions have not yet begun, there are no scores, there is no reaction of the audience so you have no way to understand: is everything absolutely bad or options are possible? Many people find it easier at this point to agree with the judges and change the program. But as my already extensive experience says, you should never abandon the program immediately. An ambitious idea is worth messing around with it. Not to mention the fact that great programs are never born easily.
Were you surprised by the leap that Hubbell and Donohue made in Milan, having exceeded personal records in both dances?
– Yes and no. This is just a good example of how the judging system works. Dancing is not a single skating, where the result can either rise sharply or sink. Everything is much more obvious in dance. At the junior level, champions can get very high scores, but only until they have no one to compare with. As soon as they move to the senior level, scores fall by ten or even twenty points. Gabby and Guillaume are very close to the possible maximum, so in this range they competed with Tessa and Scott, and at this level it becomes very difficult to improve the result. After the Canadians left, Madison and Zak became second. And since there is no one between them and the French, the scores have grown. But this, of course, does not negate the fact that Hubbell and Donohue skated very well.
Does the notion of a world record have any significance for you?
– I generally like sports where records are fixed. We have a very specific situation, because rules are changing, elements are changing, so the world record can be quite a conditional unit. On the other hand, there is a concept of the maximum achievable result. It’s like 6.0 in the old system – you see it on the scoreboard and you understand: the program is executed at the limit of perfection. If we talk about ice dance, it seems to me that it would be very interesting to show on the scoreboard not only marks, but also indicate what percentage of the maximum it is. With respect to Papadakis and Cizernon, for example, I believe that they are able to bring the effectiveness of their performances to 98-99%. And in a free dance can get close to the maximum. This, I think, can excite the public much more than information that one or another pair has once again surpassed the world record.
When Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir asked you to train them, did it take a long time for you to say yes?
– On the contrary, everything happened instantly. We have been friends for many years, were have been aware of what is happening in the life of Tessa and Scott since the very days when they stopped competing. After the Olympic Games in Sochi, Tessa and Scott came to us in Montreal to do programs for the show, and once asked the question: “If we decide to come back, will you take us?” I even did not turn on my head at that moment. Answered that of course we will take then, it’s not question at all. Just at that time I couldn’t even imagine that Virtue/Moir can really return. If I had been asked then what is the probability of such a step, I would have said that it is zero. But two years later, Tessa and Scott really came to the rink.
– Only then I realized in what mess we got. I thought my head would burst. I kept thinking about who they are and who we are. They are the Olympic champions, Olympic silver medalists, they know dances in a way that maybe no one knows in the world. And we also have Gabby and Guillaume … In general, the stress was monstrous. At the same time, it was a challenge.
I know that in Russia before taking new students, coaches tend to ask the opinion of their main athletes.
– The same thing in Canada.
Papadakis Cizeron didn’t mind that strong rivals will join the group?
– Everything turned out really stupidly. When I first told Tessa and Scott that we will always be happy to train them, Gabby and Guillaume were not in our group at all, they came a little bit later. The work immediately went very well, in the first season Papadakis / Cizeron won the World Championships, so when we were faced with the need to sort it all out, I said to myself: “Well, you messed up…”
Did you consider the option to deny the Canadians?
– No. I considered myself to be a man of my word. Once I promised something, I must do it.
Did not you later regret this experience?
– No. It was difficult, I will not deny. But a huge challenge. I think it is useful for a coach to get into a situation – “Can I or I can not?”. Whatever one may say, both of our duets have become better thanks to this everyday rivalry. It seems to me that no one can argue with this.
by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya for rsport.ria.ru