Jamal came, skated and impressed the whole world

Part I

by Helga Dobor & CĂ©line Oreiller
photos © Dushenka & Jamal Othman


A skater from Switzerland – a homeland of exquisite skaters, wonderful spins and fascinating performances.
Jamal Othman is a very elegant skater with amazing spins and always a mysterious and inscrutable smile on his face. His programs enchant you and for a little while, he invites you into his world. We will try to bring you a bit closer to the mystery of Jamal.

'Worst spiral, best upright spin'

When did you start skating and has anyone in particular inspired you?
I started to skate in 1992. Nobody in my family skated and when I started I didn’t know any famous skaters. When I began watching international figure skating competitions on television, I admired Ilia Kulik. Later Alexei Yagudin became my favourite. There are some skaters whose skating style I really like, but I want to develop my own style without being influenced too much by other skaters.

Do you remember your first time on ice??
No, unfortunately, I don’t remember it at all.
But there is a funny story: when my mother was pregnant with me, she went skating with her students -she is a sports teacher. Somehow they didn’t have any “girls skates” anywhere so she had to rent hockey skates. And then, when she skated backwards and wanted to stop, she fell flat on the ice because there were no toe picks! She was quite scared because she thought it could hurt the baby… but I guess I came through it in one piece! ;-)

Do you have any memories from your first competition?
Yes, my first competition was our Club championships in 1993. But the only things I remember, is that I made the worst spiral, but the best upright spin, and that I won the competition!

What was your most memorable competition?
The 2005 World Championships in Moscow! It was only my second big senior competition, and my first senior Worlds, so this made it my most memorable competition. I am very happy with my performances and my result there (21st place), and on top of it all it was a historical moment for Swiss ice-skating when Stéphane won, it really was and always will be an unforgettable experience!

'First European Championships!'


How did you feel at the Swiss Championships, when it was clear that you'd finally get a chance to skate at Euros and Worlds?
I was really happy! I felt like I finally got what I deserved. I’m grateful and proud to be able to represent Switzerland in these major figure skating championships.

What was it like to compete at your first Europeans?
It was simply great and I felt fantastic on the ice. Skating such good programs in front of such a big crowd was just… I don’t know, it was unbelievable! And I didn’t think I could finish that high. I just wanted to show my best, which I almost did. And I am extremely happy and content with my 11th place – it was my first European Championships!

Do you think that maybe in the end it was a good thing you didn’t get sent to Euros until this year, and be very strong on the first try, instead of going last year (or earlier) and finish lower in the standings?
I have had my thoughts about that, and maybe, maybe not. But I don’t care anymore. It was great how it came and went and I don’t want to think about what could have happened. The new judging system obviously supports me, and I think it’s good.

You skated great in the Junior Grand prix, you placed 2nd in Harbin, first in Chemnitz and 7th in the finals in Helsinki. But you also came in 5th in the Nebelhorn Trophy, a senior competition with a very strong line-up. Did these results increase the pressure for the rest of the season?
No, I think these good results even took some of the pressure off. I knew I’d skated very well at 4 competitions already, and no one can expect every competition to be perfect. Of course I wanted to show my best at Nationals and at Europeans too. But Nationals was not the most important competition for me this year. I had an extraordinary good start of this season, and everything on top of that became a bonus.


'It’s a beautiful sport'

What is your favourite program and why?
Actually I like both of my programs very much, but if I have to choose one I think it is my short (My Affectionate and Tender Beast (Russian movie soundtrack) by Evgeni Doga). I like the music and the choreography - it really fits me. And it seems like the audience liked it too…

What is your biggest strength as a skater?
I think my major strength is the fact that I am a quite well-balanced skater. I have jumps, spins, steps, and components on approximately the same level. That’s something very beneficial in the new judging system. In addition to this it seems like I had have pretty strong nerves. I hardly get nervous before skating at competitions. Even at Worlds I wasn’t extraordinarily nervous.

What kind of off-ice training do you do?
I always take classical ballet classes, and one different dancing style. Last summer it was hip-hop, and during the season I danced salsa with a friend. I think this summer I’ll attend a modern dance class.
And of course I have to do regular off-ice training like everyone else: weights, physical conditioning and so on.

How much input do you have in the choreography/music/costumes of your programs?
My coach, J. Kiefer, and I always choose the music. I think it’s not so good when a skater brings the music and the coach doesn’t like it at all. Or even worse the other way around. For us it was always important that both of us liked it, because then I could imagine skating to it and she could see me skate to it as well.
Choreography is something that grows through a process. It’s not that my choreographer just shows me the steps and I learn them, we work together. The choreographer gives steps and inputs, I give my ideas and suggestions, and step-by-step a new program is developed.
I like to design my own costumes. I tell them how I want them to be, and that’s how they are going to be. Maybe sometimes I might agree with my coach’s objections, maybe!

What do you like the most about figure skating?
Figure skating is just fantastic. It’s art, athleticism, speed, elegance, aesthetics… it’s a beautiful sport! I guess you agree. Besides that, as a figure skater, you travel around the world doing what you love the most, skate! One meets so many interesting people and learns so much! It’s great!

'Structural changes'

What is your relationship with other skaters from your National Team, are you friends or rivals?
Our relations to each other are very friendly and concerned. Really, we always spend great times together when we meet. But what really interests you is my relation to Stéphane, right? Well, I think I can say we are quite good friends. We've known each other for a while now, but this was the first season that we’ve competed against each other in international competitions. Obviously though, we don’t skate on the same level. These were my first Worlds and Stéph won the title, so there’s no real rivalry yet. But I’m working hard on becoming a serious rival!

 

How much support do you get from the federation, your family and from sponsors?
First off, my family gives me everything I need. They support me in every single way, every single day. Without my family, nothing I’ve reached so far would have been possible.
For a long time, our Federation was quite inactive. But now there have been some structural changes and the Swiss skating union is waking up. There’s still not a lot they can do for us, but at least they try their best. Figure skating is not so popular in Switzerland, and it’s hard to find sponsors, very hard. I have two now; “Job & Jobs”, which is a job agency, and “Modern Drive”, a driving school. But of course they can only cover a small part of my annual costs, so I am looking for more sponsors! Skater can’t easily fund themselves in Switzerland. But now, (with Stéphane’s victory) a new era in Swiss male figure skating has begun, and maybe everything will change. I’m optimistic!

Go to Part II


 






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