“For a long time queue in ice dance and unspoken nuances have been preventing Gabriella and Guillaume from getting fair scores.” Interview with Catherine Papadakis
Interview for Russian media with Catherine Papadakis, mother of Gabriella Papadakis and a skating coach. About her daughter career, skaters she works with and also Russian skaters.
source: matchtv.ru dd. 20th December 2021 by Marina Tchernysheva-Melnik
You put Gabriella on skates at the age of 4. Have you decided right away that she will be an athlete?
Catherine Papadakis: I brought all my children to the skating rink, because it was the only opportunity for us to be together. My work used to end late at night, and I wanted to combine it with motherhood. So after school, I took the children to the rink: they spent time with benefit, developed and were looked after. Of course, I wished everyone a successful career, but you can never predict it in advance. I saw Gabriella’s talent and great prospects in sports when she was 7 years old. Before that, she was very careful, but then she got used to and fell in love with the atmosphere of ice. It was then when I realized: my daughter is an incredible skater!
What was she like on the ice in her childhood? How quickly did she learn to skate and jump?
Catherine Papadakis: Gabby has never jumped. She trained as a dancer from the very beginning, because in France, most of the figure skating clubs are divided by disciplines. I remember a funny moment that characterizes Gabriella’s first steps in sports. In June, our club always makes a big show with all the students. And when my daughter was 4 years old, she performed in such a show for the first time in her life. Can you imagine, it took her 15 minutes to cross the rink! She moved very slowly from one side to the opposite (laughs). The audience, of course, supported the child and waited patiently. This was Gabriella’s first public appearance.
How did you manage to find a wonderful partner for your daughter so early – Guillaume Cizeron?
Catherine Papadakis: I saw Guillaume’s performance at one of the local competitions and invited him to train in our club. He was very talented. I put Gabby and Guillaume in a pair when they were 9 and 10 years old. Coached these skaters until the age of 18 and taught them the freedom of skating – the flexibility that makes them unique.
Gabriella had a difficult period at the age of 11 when she suffered a knee injury and couldn’t skate for a long time. Did you see how it happened?
Catherine Papadakis: Yes, a terrible picture! A girl from the group landed from a jump and moved her leg at great speed. At that moment, Gabby was skating alongside, and they bumped into each other. It was very painful. A child couldn’t skate for 4 months. She took it hard, because at a young age you want to move, and goals in sports have already appeared. After all, since childhood, Gabriella had to wake up at 5 in the morning for a morning practice, and after school she returned to the rink and also spent a lot of time there.
Why did Gabriella and Guillaume go to Lyon to train with Muriel Zazoui? Was it hard for you to let your child go to a new city?
Catherine Papadakis: I really did not want this and worried a lot. On the one hand, Lyon is located near Clermont-Ferrand – just 200 kilometers. I often came to visit, but I was still worried about my daughter’s future. The fact is that Guillaume was promised a lot – a good school, a convenient schedule and prospects. The Figure Skating Federation was against the transition, but Guillaume was so inspired that he insisted. Gabby had to agree. She did not even have time to finish high school at home, but, fortunately, study was easy for her, and she learned the program in the new city.
As I understand it, Gabby and Guillaume’s favorite coach is Romain Haguenauer. They meet in Zazoui’s group and then went to the school of Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon after him, right?
Catherine Papadakis: When Romain was invited to work in Montreal, he invited the guys to join and promised that he would do everything possible for their career. Of course, for me as a mother, it was difficult that Gabriela left so far from home. But at that moment we both knew that she shouldn’t stay in Zazoui’s group. She and Guillaume stopped developing and were only losing their talent. I was very angry when I watched the videos of their performances and training. Therefore, there was only way to progress – move to the Dubreuil and Lauzon group. Life has shown that both the guys and their coach made the right choice.
How did you feel in the 2014/2015 season, when your daughter began to win big competitions and get standing ovations?
Catherine Papadakis: I was happy, but not surprised. I have known for a long time that Gabriella and Guillaume should be in the lead: I realized this from their first performances at local competitions. But there is a queue in ice dance, and unspoken nuances have been preventing the guys from getting fair scores for a long time. You know, I’m often asked how I feel during my daughter’s performances. Am I proud of her? Of course I’m proud. But as soon as Gabby starts to skate, the coach turns on inside me. I look at the technique, the plot of the program, the levels … I just can’t separate the professional’s view from the subjective maternal feelings.
Tell us about your work. I read that you are a fan of figure skating and were on the ice even the day Gabriella was born.
Catherine Papadakis: Yes, in the evening I was preparing the skaters of our club to perform in the show, and towards the night I gave birth to a daughter. Then, in my younger years, everything was easy for me. I started coaching at the age of 19 when I retired from the sport. I specialize in ice dance, but now I also coach single skaters, pairs and synchronized skating teams. I also teach choreography and skating skills. I have students of different ages – from 10 years old to the very adults. By the way, do you know where our city of Clermont-Ferrand is located? In the heart of France. My Gabriella was born here. Before, I often traveled around the world with master classes, conducted seminars for other coaches. I worked with clubs – mostly European, but also visited North America. Due to the pandemic, I had to stop, and I am really looking forward to the border reopening. It’s hard to sit in one place all the time and lead regular students. I have been teaching figure skating for 30 years and I want to share my experience with everyone, travel.
There is a unique figure skater among your skaters -Zoe Jones, who in her 40s performs jumps. How did you become the coach of Zoe and Christopher Boyadji?
Catherine Papadakis: Christopher is French. We met long ago, when he and my daughter were teenagers. I brought Gabby and Guillaume to the Junior Grand Prix and Junior World Championships, and Christopher competed there with another partner. Having moved to Swindon with Zoe, he invited me to give consultations. The guys mostly train themselves. And I often came to choreograph their programs, helped with technique and choreography. After all, no matter how experienced an athlete is, he always needs a coach who will judge the quality of skating from the outside and give fresh advice. Now the guys are preparing for the British Nationals. If all goes well, they will compete at the European Championships.
Tell us about Gabriella’s father and your other children.
Catherine Papadakis: He is Greek, we met in his homeland. I was on vacations in Greece with friends and one evening I went to a club located on the seashore. Emmanuel worked there as a DJ. We liked each other and shared contacts, and two years later he came to me. We got married. Now Emmanuelle runs a food truck. My youngest daughter Maylis is 24 years old, she works as a teacher. Son Rafael is 15 years old, he goes to school. For both of my younger children, figure skating remained at the level of a hobby, but everyone is happy in their profession.
How often does your family go to competitions where Gabriella competes?
Catherine Papadakis: My younger children and I always go to support Gabbe at local competitions. Emmanuel sometimes comes to competitions. Before the pandemic, I attended a lot of competitions outside France, I was at all World Championships where my daughter took part. Somewhere I came as a coach with my students, and somewhere I went only for the sake of Gabriella. I accompanied her to the Korean Olympics. True, these are very difficult memories. Alas, I will not be able to go to the next Olympics due to severe restrictions. But the World Championships in March will be held in France – we will definitely not miss it. Plus, next week my daughter will come home and will compete at Nationals.
Which Russian figure skaters do you like?
Catherine Papadakis: Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin – I known them for a long time, because they competed with Gabriella in the same warm-up at the junior Grand Prix. I have also observed Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov for many years. Your girls change so quickly that I don’t have time to remember their names. As soon as I get used to one girl, a new leader appears in a year. The only Russian single skater who has touched my soul is Alena Kostornaia. I saw her enchanting victory at the Grand Prix Final in Turin a couple of years ago. How good she was! I don’t really know anyone from the boys, I don’t watch much pairs either. But I remember Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov very well – they impressed me at the Olympic Games in Sochi.
Do you follow the young Russian ice dancers who will surely shine in the next Olympic cycle?
Catherine Papadakis: I don’t follow them all the time, maybe live at competitions. Just at the Grand Prix in Grenoble, I enjoyed watching Annabelle Morozov and Andrei Bagin. In general, you have great duets, but I’m cheering for Tiffani Zagorski: she grew up in France and skated with Gabby.
How do people in Europe and America treat the problem of excess weight among skaters?
Catherine Papadakis: Honestly, no one discusses this topic – how many times I went to seminars and talked with different coaches. In our club in Clermont-Ferrand, there are no cases of weight loss. In other schools, too, I think they know how to find a balance. In Europe, it is simply not customary to talk about weight. During the time that Gabriella trains in Canada, she also has never complained to me about such problems. She eats
well and is rarely weighed.
What is your favorite program of Papadakis / Cizeron?
Catherine Papadakis: This season’s rhythmic dance. Everything is perfect there – music, rhythms, and movements in unison. The skaters accelerate, then stop a little, but after 2-3 steps they skate again at an insane speed. In the middle of the dance, they perform amazing choreographic movements and then start with complex steps. Everything is very fast until the last second. This is an excellent program! In general, I love how Gabby and Guillaume think over each dance and live in it.
There is a version that Gabriella and Guillaume missed the entire last season in order to focus on the preparation for their main competition – the Olympic Games. Is it so?
Catherine Papadakis: No, it’s just that the pandemic left no choice. If the guys left Canada to participate in any competitions on the territory of any country, the border would be closed for them. And how do you get to your training base then? Quarantine rules changed and became stricter. Therefore, Gabby and Guillaume decided not to risk it and made the right decision – they stayed with their group. The Grand Prix in Ottawa was canceled. And they couldn’t take part in other competitions in Canada, there were enough of their own citizens. This is the only reason for missing the season. My daughter really wanted to compete, she prepared programs with Guillaume. All this time, she also couldn’t visit her family: in October we saw each other for the first time in a year and a half of the pandemic.
Is it true that Gabriella gives all of her medals to you?
Catherine Papadakis: Yes, I keep them at home and protect them so that no one steals (laughs). I’m looking forward to add the most coveted gold medal to our collection soon. My daughter has already won all the other awards, and we are waiting for the main one.