Brian Joubert: "I didn't know Alexei skated to this music"┬á
Getting over the disappointment, European bronze medallist Brian Joubert is looking at the future now. He found time to talk to us during the first part of the exhibition gala in Tallinn and besides his impressions about the Europeans he also talked about how important figure skating is in his life.
What does figure skating mean to you?
At the moment it’s all my life. I started when I was four years old and I have so many goals around figure skating. This sport taught me a lot of things about life.
First of all you learn that if you want something, you have to do everything to get it. You have to work hard all the time. It’s like that in life, in every sport, in every job.
Why did you start figure skating?
I have two older sisters and they both used to skate. When I was small, my mum watched my sisters, so I’ve always been at the ice rink. I wanted to be like my sisters. I started figure skating when I was four and had my first competition when I was five years old. Everything was fast.
Did you win that competition?
No, no, I was third. It was difficult because that time there weren’t so many figure skater boys in France, so I was competing with the ladies. (smiles) But it wasn’t that bad.
How important is it for you to have your mother by your side at a competition?
She takes care of everything: journalists, medical staff, etc., so I can be focused just on my job on the ice. She is the only person I absolutely trust. She is with me every time, in the good and the bad moments, that’s why she watches my practice and follows me to competitions.
You don’t trust people easily, do you?
No, I don’t. It’s difficult.
You are smiling at everyone but you keep your distance.
I want to be nice with people. But to trust them, it’s difficult.
Do you have any skating idol, someone you admire?
I like Elvis Stojko and Alexei Yagudin. I like how they skate, how they behave. When I watched the competitions on TV, I used to watch just because of them. They helped me to work, to become like them.
Who is your role model off-ice?
I have a friend who is an example for me. He has been a six-time world champion in boxing, although he came from nothing. He was alone all the time, he has no family, and he reached everything alone.
You won the bronze medal in Tallinn and you were very disappointed on the podium. Was it because of the score, the placement or your own mistakes?
I cannot be disappointed about the score, especially the technical score, because I made a lot of mistakes and lost many points. I’m very happy about the components score in each program. I improved a lot. That’s very important for me. The short program was great and I know if there had been a quad toe/triple toe, I could beat Evgeni Plushenko, I could be first. It makes me very confident for the next competition. However, when I came here for the Europeans, I knew that I wasn’t ready for my free program. But that’s my problem. I have to make some mistakes to come back stronger for the next competition. So I’m disappointed about my performance, but not surprised. I don’t want to be sixth again at the Olympic Games. I will try to do my job in Poitiers every day. I will work on my free program physically, because I have two very good programs this season and I know I can do much better.
You weren’t present at the small medal ceremony for the free program. Why?
I didn’t know about it, my team leader didn’t tell me. When I learnt I should be there I took a taxi to the ice rink, but unfortunately I was late.
Was your performance at the Europeans affected by your recent foot injury?
I don’t feel pain now, but the problem is I lost three weeks. I couldn’t skate for ten days and when I came back on the ice it was not possible for me to do triple flip, triple lutz or a quad jump. I was able to do double axel, triple salchow, triple loop and triple toe. That’s all. So I lost a lot of time, maybe that’s why I wasn’t ready for the Europeans. Now I feel okay, and I can do what I want on the ice.
Weren’t you scared that this injury might cost you the Olympic Games?
No, because I had the same injury three years ago. I was just disappointed because I had to withdraw from the GP Final. I did my best at the NHK trophy to qualify for the final, but in the end I couldn’t do it. I was sad about it, but I wasn’t scared about the Europeans and the Olympics.
Who do you think will be the main contenders at the Olympics?
The main contenders are going to be Evgeni, Stephane, Tomáš Verner – he is very dangerous, he’s had not a good season but he can be ready for the Olympics – Jeremy Abbott, Evan Lysacek, Daisuke Takahashi, Nobunari Oda… There are a lot of skaters. It’s going to be a very interesting competition for everybody.
What has changed since 2006 in your life? How is this Brian Joubert different from the one in Turin?
I’m older, I have more experience. I protect myself more, for example from the French journalists, so I don’t feel the pressure as before. But the main difference is just that I have more experience. I’ve made some mistakes, I’ve done some good things, and I will try to use it to be good for the Olympic Games.
So you don’t feel as much pressure compared to Turin? Or maybe you can handle it better now?
No, I don’t feel pressure. I just have to be focused on my practice. If I come to Vancouver and I feel and know that I am ready for the competition, no questions, just doing my job, then there is no pressure. You don’t feel any stress, you are not nervous.
You said you were very nervous before your short program in Tallinn. How can you cope with your nerves?
I will be nervous, just like at each competition. But you can be nervous and control it, as in the short program. But sometimes when you are nervous, you don’t feel your body and it happens when you know that you are not ready. That’s why I have to concentrate on my practice.
This year you are working with Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski. What’s this collaboration like?
They are great people, great choreographers. They taught me a lot of things about figure skating. They come to Poitiers and we work a lot. I have a very good team around me, they are very professional, and I need it.
So it’s not a problem that they were ice dancers?
No, as they don’t want to work with me on my jumps! They work with me on my skating and choreography. That’s why I chose them. I learned a lot, my skating skills and the quality of my skating has improved a lot and I think it’s because of them.
You have a new free program this season. What do you want to express in it?
I want to show a new Brian Joubert. I want to show that I’m not just the guy who is able to do some jumps, but I want to show that I’m a figure skater, I can skate, I have good transitions, good choreography. It’s a good challenge for me, because it’s new and it’s not easy.
What is the hardest part of it?
It’s new, we started to work on this free program just this season and I mustn’t make mistakes, especially in two weeks! But I think the beginning was more difficult, I think.
Is there any story behind the program?
There is no story. We talk a little bit about earth, but I just want to show power. I try to feel the music. I don’t want to explain something, just to feel the music.
It was a very brave music selection to choose the piece that Alexei Yagudin used for his Olympic exhibition gala.
To be honest, I didn’t know Alexei skated to this music. I saw it on youtube after my choice. I just heard this music on TV and I liked it and said: this is going to be my music for the Olympic season! After that I found out Alexei had it for his exhibition number, but I didn’t know before. I like Alexei, but I’m not ready to choose the same music as him. I’ve chosen this music because I liked it, not because of Alexei.
Why did you decide to put a quad toe and a quad salchow in your free program instead of two quad toes?
Because they are two different jumps so I can repeat two triple/triple combinations. But it’s very difficult, both mentally and physically, to do two different quads. I have to work on it.
How consistent is your quad salchow?
At practice I feel okay but in the program I’m not so ready. I was able to land it in 2007. I landed it at the beginning of the season, but I will see for the Olympic Games.
So are there still more possible jump layouts?
I don’t know if I’ll keep the quad salchow or not. I will see according to the practice.
Does it affect your performance if you have a bad practice or you fall in the six-minute warm-up?
No, I don’t care. Here in Tallinn I didn’t have a good practice on the day of the free program because I knew it was going to be difficult to skate the free program, so I was not so relaxed. But I did a lot of bad six-minute warm-ups and still I was able to do my job on the ice. I don’t care if I have a bad practice on the day of the competition, I just have to be focused and I have to fight.
You’ve won your ninth medal at your ninth Europeans. This is amazing consistency, what does it mean to you?
It’s good. I’m the French guy who’ s won lot of medals. Silver, bronze or gold medals at the Europeans are good, but I don’t care for the moment. I just want to win the medal at the Olympic Games.