Yannick Ponsero: “I’m working like an Olympic champion”


By Titanilla Bőd
Photos © Rita Szoboszlai

While French press focuses on Brian Joubert, someone in the background is planning to be the best Frenchman and the gold medallist at the Olympic Games. Yannick Ponsero thinks about Vancouver every day and he hopes his good timing will bring him success.

So far you’ve had a very successful season. You did really well at the Europeans, so you are probably satisfied.

Yes, I’m satisfied with this season. I started to work together with lots of people, who make a kind of a circle around me. I’m working with my coach, my physiotherapist, my mental coach, my dietitian – and they are all helping me to become very good – especially for the Olympic Games in 2010. I’m working for the Olympic Games - every competition right now is a preparation for the Olympics.

Do you think about the Olympics every day?

Yes. I’m working like an Olympic champion and I would like to be an Olympic champion! That’s the reason I get up every morning at six o’clock, go to the ice rink and skate. I have two practice sessions a day, and I’m doing a lot of physical preparation. I’m working very hard.

People expect a medal more from another French skater, Brian Joubert. How do you feel about it?

I’m working for myself, so it’s not a big pressure. Brian is very good, but I think I can beat him. I really enjoy skating with Brian, because he is a great skater, and I wish him a medal at the Olympics, but I want to be the first Frenchman there. I don’t want to be the best Frenchman right now but in Vancouver in 2010.

Can you tell us something about your mental preparation?

With my mental coach we have some focus points, so that I can land all my jumps even when I’m not in my top form. It was the case also in the short program here in the Hague. Right now I’m not in top form, because it’s not an important championship, so I don’t have to be at my best now. So I landed those jumps with some mistakes, step-outs, but I could go on to another elements thanks to these focus points.

Are you nervous before your performance?

Yes, of course I’m nervous like every athlete. But I have learned how I can do my job even with the stress. I’m not going against the stress. I say: okay, I’m stressed, but I have to do my job and I have to land my jumps. I had to learn this because I was like an artist: sometimes I skated a fantastic program, and sometimes it was pretty bad. So I had to learn how to skate good even if I feel I’m in a bad form. It’s been long work and a long process for me.

Why do you think the men’s skating in France is so strong?

Of course it’s because of Brian. He is like a mototrain. Every Frenchman wants to beat him. Another thing is that we have a big tradition of figure skating in France, especially in the men’s category. But there are other countries like the US or Canada, and they are strong, too.

Who do you think will be the main contenders for the Olympic gold in Vancouver?

Obviously Patrik Chan because the Games are held in his country. It will be very difficult to beat him. Then, there will be Brian, Evan Lysacek, maybe Samuel Contesti… I think there are lots of people who can medal, so I have to prepare very well. The magic of the Olympic Games is that something unexpected always happens. Do you remember the short track skating in Salt Lake City? That guy from Australia, who didn’t even know how to skate, took the gold because all the other skaters fell. That’s the magic of the Olympics, we don’t know what will happen. We have to prepare for everything.

What are your strengths as a skater?

Especially my quad toe. I actually have more problems with my flip because it’s difficult for me to do it from the inside edge. I also think I’m a good skater in terms of interpretation and choreography. I dance a lot, I go to classical dance, modern jazz dance, hip-hop dance… I get on very well with my choreographers, although they can’t skate, they skate like a baby! They are not skaters but dancers. I think I’m the only one skater who works with people outside skating, as I really want to bring something different into figure skating.

In the new scoring system the quad is not as necessary as before, but the French skaters still include it in their programs. Why? Do you think this is what a real athlete needs?

The quad is not awarded as many points as it should be, but if you do a quad toe-triple toe it’s better than a triple lutz-triple toe. So if you have a steady quad, it’s worth the risk. In this season I fell only twice on the quad, so I think this is my easiest jump! For me it’s easier to do a quad than triple lutz or triple flip. And I also think this is the French mentality: none of the Frenchmen like the quad policy in the new scoring system so we still do quads.

In general, what do you think about the new scoring system?

There are lot of good points but also lot of bad points in it. We have to get used to it, like all new systems, but I think the judges should listen to skaters more, they should listen to our opinions and maybe change some parts.

The last question: how did you make up the idea of your exhibition program with the ski and the Hawaiian shirt?

I’m a skiing man as I live in the mountains! This program is to the soundtrack of a very famous movie, the first part takes place on the beach and the second part takes place in the mountains. I tried to follow the movie, but I had to switch the order because I couldn’t start with the T-shirt and sunglasses and then put on the skis. I found this solution and I enjoy this program a lot.

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