Daria Popova and Bruno Massot: "We don't aspire to copy anyone"

March 29, 2013
By Oxana Shkrebtienko
Photos © Oxana Shkrebtienko, Mireille Geurts

During the 2013 Challenge Cup in The Hague, I met with Daria Popova and Bruno Massot; one of the two couples representing France in this competition.

Daria and Bruno have skated together since the summer of 2011. In their first season, in December 2011, they won the title of National Champions of France. They train in Caen with Jean-Francois Ballester. Previously they trained in Germany with coach Ingo Steuer. Their goal is to integrate among the world’s top skaters. Daria Popova and Bruno Massot make no secret of their ambitions: the Olympics.

In this season we see much progress in your skating. How did you achieve this level? Do you consult with other specialists besides your permanent coach? Do you train with another coach during the off season?

Daria: No, we just train a lot, many hours, every day. We have physical training, choreography; also we practice a lot on the ice. We started to progress when we realized we could be at the top. It gave us great motivation! We started to work hard, much more than before, with serious attitude. At the moment we work only with our permanent coach Jean-Francois Ballester. In summer, we are going for a month to Canada to a good specialist, to work over the elements, to learn some new lifts and to try a quad twist.

Oh, what a brave plan! Bruno, are you ready for a quad twist?

Bruno: It’s easy.

Daria: One day, I mean.

Bruno: Maybe after a month of being together, we could do it. Yes, almost a quad.

Daria, you are originally from Russia. Did the Russian figure skating school have an impact on you? Did you take something from it?

Daria: Yes, I started to skate in Russia, in Moscow. And I skated there till I was 7 years old. Then we moved to Germany, where I continued to train with a Russian coach. The Russian school is impossible to compare with any other school – German, French or even American. I also skated in America, again with a Russian coach. I think the Russian school is special; it is the best - and the Russian skaters too, by their studying, as well as by character.

Do you mean pair skating or generally?

I think, generally. Now strong single girls appear in the Russian team; Adelina Sotnikova, Liza Tuktamysheva. It’s the Russian school, of course!

Who are your skating models? Whose style is best?

Daria: I really like Maxim Trankov and Tatiana Volosozhar; how they look together on the ice. Aljona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy are also masters. But we don’t aspire to copy anybody; we’d like to show something of our own. Both of these couples have been skating for quite a long time. They have their own style; they are easy to recognize. I think it’s not right to copy somebody’s style. We want to have our own one.

Bruno: I don’t have one couple as model, but I have some models for certain elements. For example, my model for a twist is Maxim Trankov. For me, it’s the most beautiful twist. Then I really like the originality of programs by Aljona and Robin - not the costumes - only the programs (they both laugh). So, it depends on just the element or a program. There is no one pair as a model for everything for me. As Daria said before, we don’t want to copy, we want to show something else, to have our own personality.

And we can see this. There are two pairs in the French team – you and Vanessa James with Morgan Ciprès. You both have your own style, different from each other and impossible to compare. And my next question is about Team France. It looks like a very friendly team, very supportive. What do you think about Team France? Is it the best?

Bruno: We can say in France that we are really a team. Not like some other sportsmen, who are the team just because of the name. Team spirit is very important for us.

Daria: We meet together, we speak, discuss different problems.

Bruno: We are all here for everyone else. We share almost everything. It’s a team, a real team!

The question that I can’t resist to ask Bruno is about sharing everything. Did you share even your costumes with Brian Joubert?

A, yah! (laugh). Brian has a lot of costumes. But he always forgets to take something to every competition. The last competition he didn’t forget to take the costume. He took mine just because he felt uncomfortable to jump in his own one.

Yes, we know this story, but why did he wear your shirt? Is it because you are the same size as Brian?

Yes, we are, but it wasn’t only for this reason. That shirt has the most basic style just for him. We listened to the music, and my costume was the one which suited his music best. So, he put it on for this free program.

But it was not for the first time that he borrowed your costume?

No. In Courchevel for the Christmas show, he wore my red shirt, because he forgot to bring his own. It’s Brian (everybody smiles). This is why we can speak about the Team!

And everybody can see it, your team relationships.

Bruno: I think we are the only team like this, with such good relationships. Italia is also a good team, but not like us.

Daria: And we won the Team Spirit award at the last World Team Trophy. It means very much to us!

I’d like to ask about your costumes. Who helps you with the designs? They look very elegant and stylish.

Daria: There is a Russian lady in Berlin, who helps us to make and decorate our costumes. And I also tried to create the costumes myself for the past two years. But she has been helping me already for eight years. I think the main thing is to have a basic style. And the rest is just a question of taste and comfort, easy to make elements, to have enough space to move. The costumes should help us, not hinder us.

Bruno: We don’t search for something to surprise the audience, like Aljona and Robin. We prefer people to remember our programs, the elements, the style of our performance, not the costumes.

Daria: My mom also helps me with the ideas for our costumes, in choosing the style for each kind of music.

Bruno: This is not me. In this aspect I rely on Daria completely. I don’t mind it too much, the convenience is the main thing for me. I just listen to the music, we talk about the basic sketch, motives, and that’s all.

Daria: Yes, then he only comes to try on the costume to see if it fits (they both laugh).

Please, tell about your plans for the rest of this season and for the next one.

Bruno: This season we have only to wait. We will see after the World Championships. If Vanessa and Morgan finish within the first 10 places, we’ll have 2 spots for the Olympic Games and for the next Worlds. We hope they can do it. [Ed. - They did.]

Daria: There is one more competition this season, World Team Trophy in Japan. And there will be an international pair seminary for juniors in Berlin Germany, where we are invited to show some elements and help. One of two French couples will go to Tokyo and the other to Berlin. Our Federation will make this decision.

And the end of this season we will just train a lot, much more than the last year, because the whole season we were very close… And now we’ll do it. We’ve started to search for the music for our new programs, to have more time to prepare, with no stress.

Bruno: We need to prepare well for the next very important season. It is the Olympic season, we must be ready!

Do you plan to do any shows in spring?

Daria: We had one show before The Hague; it was “Art on Ice” in St. Moritz. It was very nice and beautiful. And we hope to do some more shows.

Bruno: Every year we participate in club shows. We accept invitations from many clubs in France who ask us to come.

Daria: To have a little bit ‘competition’ atmosphere.

Are you invited to the Handi league event in Cholet in May?

Bruno: Yes, we are. It’s a special show for handicapped people, they also participate in skating. (To Daria) I forgot to tell you!

Daria: I didn’t understand what you were talking about! (laughs)

Bruno: Yes, we’re going! With Brian, Chafik. Our Federation has a patronage for this event. It’s like a demonstration how the sport can help people, to share the ice and skating with people. So, this year we’ll be there.

I wish you well in your progression, to achieve all your goals for the next season. And good luck!

Daria and Bruno: Thank you!

At the Challenge Cup 2013, they were in second place after the short program with the best scores in their career, and in 6th place after the free program. Over all they finished in 4th place.

The French team was awarded the best team of this competition.

At the World Championships in London, Canada, the first French pair Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres finished in 8th place. They earned 2 spots for France at the Olympic Games in Sochi. So, the second pair, Daria Popova and Bruno Massot will participate in the Olympics. Bonne chance, Dasha and Bruno! Allez!

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