The Proximus Stars on Ice press conference


Text: Mireille Geurts, Jeroen Huizinga, Magdalena Osborne
Photos © Mireille Geurts

Less than 2 months before the Belgian SOI shows, some of the cast had still not been announced. So the Proximus Stars on Ice press conference, held on October 3rd at the Astrid Plaza Hotel, Antwerp, was highly anticipated, what news would unfold?

Mireille was in attendance for the third time and could meet up with IMG's charming Ellen Dupont, who is very helpful in the getting good tickets department and many other issues.

TV and newspaper reporters also found their way to the Astrid. Kevin van der Perren, who has been appointed ambassador for the show, was part of the panel, along with Igor Takacs, vice president of the IMG Benelux.

Also present was Sabine Appelmans. A multiple Belgian champion in tennis, she has competed in 2 Olympics. She was not seated with the panel, but on the front row.

Like last year the setting was friendly and relaxed and a lot of information was passed on.

Igor talked briefly about the history and success of the Proximus Stars on Ice. The shows were a huge success already in their first year, back in 2003. Last year the concept changed a bit and more eligible skaters were invited, and the rink was Olympic size. Many of the skaters performed programs they intended to use in ISU competitions during the 2004/2005 season. Over 19.500 spectators attended the shows last year.

This year the show will be pre-Olympic, featuring former Olympic champions and medalist, as well as potential medalists of the Olympic Games in Torino. It'll have announcers in French and Dutch, and last about 2 hours.

Then this year's cast was presented. Part of it we already knew: Ilia Kulik and Ekaterina Goreeva, Barbara Fusar - Poli & Maurizio Margaglio, Tatiana Navka & Roman Kostomarov, Emanuel Sandhu, Kevin van der Perren and Ruben Blommaert. This young Belgian talent appeared in last year's shows and was a great success. For Ruben it's a dream to participate in this show and to become an Olympic medalist.

The new additions were US pair champions Katie Orscher & Garrett Lucash and Finnish champion Susanna Pöykiö! Susanna agreed only a few days ago and didn't make it into the press pack, which was handed out at the press conference. The crew at Absolute Skating was delighted to learn of Susanna's participation!

There was another issue of great interest. Katarina Witt had been the show ambassador for the past two years and her talented friend and co worker Lea Ann Miller had choreographed. But now Kevin was named ambassador, so who would choreograph?

The answer: Brian Orser!

Igor explained: Brian is actually more my colleague in the US. *laughs* We chose him because Lea Ann Miller, who did the show last year, can't come this year, although she will prepare the choreography together with Brian in the States. And for the pre-Olympic concept, we thought that bringing a former Olympic skater would be a good idea. Orser is a 2 time Olympic silver medalist and very well known in the figure skating world. And on top of that he will perform one of his programs!

More good news indeed!

Igor explained the reason why Sabine Appelmans was present. She will be the host of the show for the Dutch part of the audience and Pierre Robert for the French speaking part. This will be the second time for her, as she already was the announcing speaker of Proximus Stars on Ice first edition in 2003. She also attended last year's show. How would she describe the show?

It is a fantastic show with on one side the competition aspect, especially this year and on the other side an awesome show. It's basically the best of all: great single skaters, the best pair skaters and icedancers, all combined in one show. I am always surprised about the quality of it. I admire the skaters very much and I really enjoy watching the show.

Igor asked her: What would be your advice for Kevin, as you are experienced with Olympic Games? You participated in them in eh…

A long time ago, thank you Igor. *laughs*. I think that Kevin knows very well what to do, he has a lot of experience with the big competitions, so he will have his nerves under control and all. For me the most important is to believe in yourself, believe that you are going there to get a medal. I am convinced you can do it.

Kevin quipped: Maybe it's better if you accompany me, as you seem to have more confidence than I do. *laughs*

It was time for the panel to answer questions. The journalists and Igor himself were well prepared and some very good questions were asked:

Kevin, the only Belgian athlete qualified for Torino, was asked about his ambassadorship for the Proximus Stars on Ice shows:

I feel very honored to become the ambassador of the most important event in my sport in Belgium, actually the only one! *laughs* It would be great if there were more events. I'm very pleased to be the ambassador and I hope I can help out here and there.

The SOI shows are in mid season. Are the skaters really eager to break their training schedule to come to Belgium for a few days to skate in this show?

Actually, for me the timing couldn't have been better this year. It fits right in between my planned competitions. I have "Skate America" in October and the "NHK Trophy" in Japan, which is in December. This way I can prepare the best for both.

Will you perform one of your Olympic programs in the show? This audience might be bigger than in Torino...

I think I'll perform my new free program, to the music of "Pirates of the Caribbean", as it'll be the only time I can perform it in Belgium. I won't be skating in the Belgian nationals, because I'll have another competition on those dates. So I'll show my free program and I hope Proximus will be pleased.

What was, in your opinion, the best part of last year's show?

I liked it all; the main concept, the mixing of eligible and pro-skaters... I couldn't pick just one thing! I really like that it gives the people in Belgium the opportunity to see people like Ilia Kulik and Ekaterina Gordeeva skate, something they would otherwise have to buy a ticket to America for.

Has your success made the sport more popular in Belgium?

I can't say for sure, but I think so. Every year there are more people skating. Right after the SOI shows there are many new kids signing up at skating clubs.

How has your skating improved lately? What are you able to do now that you couldn't a few years ago?

Well, I can finally do the quadruple jump every day! That, together with the triple-triple-triple combination, should lead, if all goes as planned, to the highest technical score. The rest will depend on the judges and the callers. But I know for technique I will do all I can.

Kevin, won't there be a bigger chance for you to medal at the European Championships? Or does all your attention go to the Olympics this season?

The European Championships are held every year, the Olympics only once every four. You won't get that many chances, so the main focus of my preparation goes to the Olympics.

Is there a skater you think should win the Olympics?

Me? *laughs* No, I don't know, I don't have any favorites.

But Joubert or Plushenko, do you think those two could make it?

It all depends. You just have to be there at the right time. If you skate perfect and all the others fail you can win. It's all open!

You competed in Bratislava 2 weeks ago (the Ondrej Nepela) and finished second. What was that like?

Well! It was my first competition and it was very important to me to try out my new program. The judges and audience were all very positive.

After last season some changes were made to the judging system. Did those have any influences on your programs?

My programs were done and the changes that were made are minimal. The biggest change is the added 4th level. But this level has so many added requirements, especially for spins and steps, that it's almost impossible to meet them all. Not in the 4+ minutes a program lasts!

Do you still think it's a disadvantage coming from a small country?

Yes, I think so, and I guess it'll always be that way. The bigger and more important figure skating countries will always have the advantage.

Do you get recognized on the street?

Not that I've noticed.*laughs* But that certainly isn't my goal.

Finally Igor was asked if there were already ideas for the group-numbers.

No. Not yet. We told the choreographer about our idea with this pre-Olympic concept. That hopefully some of the skaters will reveal their Olympic programs, as Kevin will, that's the purpose of the show. We also hope the skaters competing at the Olympics will medal and hopefully return to us next year!

The question/answer session ended, but we had a chance to talk some more to Kevin. He talked a bit about the Ondrej Nepela competition and how he always likes to skate in Bratislava. The execution wasn't flawless yet (fall on quad and on the Lutz). Well, he still got silver! The funny part was about the new costume, which he designed himself, but which unfortunately didn't get finished on time. He had to skate in something though, and chose a costume from an older short program (tango).

Attending the press conference and getting the good news about the cast and choreographer served as a taste of things to come. The shows in Antwerp are in everyway worth going to!

The shows will be on November 19 & 20. For more information on tickets and booking, check out the shows website here.

In the near future, Absolute Skating in cooperation with IMG, will give you the chance to win a meet-and-greet with one of the skaters and other goodies, so check back with us!

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