World Figure Skating Championships | Let’s talk skating at the Jacques-Beauchamp salon

Japanese journalists and photographers occupied the majority of tables at the Jacques-Beauchamp salon on Tuesday morning. For the World Figure Skating Championships in Montreal, the media food court at the Bell Center was temporarily transformed into a press room.

With the 15-hour time difference with Asia, the Japanese colleagues were busy putting the final touches to their presentation papers in preparation for the start of the competitions, Wednesday noon, with the short program for the pairs event. Will Quebecers Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps succeed from the outset in putting pressure on the reigning champions, the Japanese Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, whom they have beaten twice this season?

In the evening, Kaori Sakamoto will begin her attempt to win a third consecutive gold medal, something unheard of among women since the three coronations of the American Peggy Fleming between 1966 and 1968. The 23-year-old Japanese, whose choreographies are signed by Canadians Jeffrey Buttle and Marie-France Dubreuil, swept everything in its path in 2023-2024, including Skate Canada International, the Grand Prix circuit final and the Four Continents Championships. The only Canadian in the running, Ontarian Madeline Schizas, whose parents are from Montreal, will aim for a place among the top 10.


Kaori Sakamoto

The monastic calm of the Jacques-Beauchamp lounge was slightly disturbed by the arrival of Alain Goldberg, who had just attended the men’s training sessions. The learned Radio-Canada analyst embarked on a long conversation with Ghislain Briand, an eminent Quebec coach who specializes in teaching jumps. Among his eight students who will line up in Montreal is the Japanese Shoma Uno, who will also aim for a third crown in a row (after two silver medals).

Alain Goldberg shared his most recent discoveries on the biomechanics of jumps when The Press invited herself into the discussion, which inevitably came close to daisies.

In 2020, Ghislain Briand, a Montrealer of Gaspé origins, was the aerials coach of Yuzuru Hanyu, the Japanese superstar, double reigning Olympic champion at the time. His presence had greatly boosted ticket sales among his compatriots, before the Montreal Worlds became the first major sporting event canceled in Quebec at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two years later, Hanyu retired after his fourth-place finish at the Beijing Games, where he became the first skater in history to be credited with a quadruple Axel attempt in competition.

“With Yuzuru here, they would have sold tickets,” said Ghislain Briand, echoing the lower popular interest in these Worlds repatriated by Skate Canada. If Friday and Saturday are shaping up to be good days (potentially 7,000 spectators on a reduced capacity of 8,400 seats), the organizing committee limits itself to indicating that there are places left for Wednesday and Thursday.

A bit of patience…

The presence of Shoma Uno, whose main coach is the Swiss Stéphane Lambiel, nevertheless announces an interesting confrontation with the young American Ilia Malinin, known as the “god of the quad”, winner of the Grand Prix final in December and first author of a successful quadruple Axel in competition. (Goldberg expects to see a successful quintuple jump within two years.)

Another intriguing contender is Adam Siao Him Fa, who beat both Uno and Malinin this season. Already assured of a second gold medal, the 18-year-old Frenchman even allowed himself a prohibited backflip at the end of his free program at the last European Championships.

This is not yet enough to arouse passions, judges Philippe Candeloro, himself a former salto enthusiast who had made himself known with colorful characters (Conan, Napoleon, D’Artagnan and his famous boxer in show) at the during a career that earned him two Olympic bronze medals in the 1990s.

“We have super champions, but we no longer manage to have stars, in fact,” clarified the man who will act as an analyst for France Télévisions, after joining the exchange at the invitation of Alain Goldberg .


Shoma Uno

Candeloro regrets a certain conformism and unanimity in the interviews. “To become a star, you have to open the doors and leave them open,” he argued.

He would like more color, more personality: “You take an interview with everyone, it’s always the same thing: oh yeah, I’m happy, I was in great shape, I trained hard for that. What more do you want to say without being afraid of saying something stupid that will get out of hand? Because today, with all the political correctness, wokism, you take risks every time you use expressions validated by a lawyer. »

For Marie-France Dubreuil, contacted at the end of the afternoon, it is simply a question of showing a little patience before another emblematic figure takes her place.

“When a big star like Hanyu leaves the sport, it takes a little time before someone takes his place,” explained the coach specializing in dance (see other text). She hopes that Sakamoto, who trains in the metropolis in the spring, can experience “his moment” at the Bell Centre.

You have to be open to new people who arrive and who bring other things.

Marie-France Dubreuil

After three quarters of an hour of exchanges and friendly barbs, MM. Goldberg, Briand and Candeloro headed to the stands to watch a women’s training session. The main object of their attention: Loena Hendrickx. Double medalist at the World Championships, winner of the European Championships and winner of the best costume prize at the recent International Skating Union gala, the Belgian stands out for the grace and elegance of her performances.

For my part, with a few colleagues, I wisely followed the “skating 101” course graciously offered to the media by Skate Canada, during which professional judge Fanny-Ève Tapp was responsible for demystifying the “new” scoring system and other subtleties of figure skating.


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