Lucie Myslivecková and Neil Brown:
"We can be crazy together, this is really cool"

October 16, 2012
By Titanilla Bőd
Photo © Absolute Skating

What happens if you put two crazy people together?

Well, they willl either kill each other or they'll bring down the house. The latter is what happened to ice dancers Lucie Myslivecková and Neil Brown, who represent the Czech Republic and have just started their second season together at the Nebelhorn Trophy. There they ended in 10th place.

How did you team up?
Lucie: Matej [Novák, Lucie's previous partner] ended his career at the end of the 2010/2011 season after the World championships. I was not ready to stop competing yet, so I started searching for a partner. I was searching for about three months, and then I contacted Neil in September last year. He answered that his knee was injured and he didn't know if he could skate again or how long it might take until it healed. But then our coaches met in Bratislava and they agreed that I would go to Lyon for a tryout. And it went well.

Lucie with Matej Novák, 2009

Where did you search for a partner?
Lucie: I made a profile on Icepartnersearch [a website for ice dancers and pair skaters] and I saw Neil there. I contacted a lot of people, because many couples split up, but many of the guys wanted to do only shows. However, I still wanted to compete.

Did you already know Neil?
Lucie: We knew each other from competitions, so we were not strangers. We met for the first time in Vienna six years ago, at my first international competition, and for him it was also one of his first. As I remember, they won the compulsories there and me and my partner won the free dance.

How did things work with Neil on your first practice session?
Lucie: We spent two hours on the ice, trying different dances and talking to each other. We were dancing cha-cha and chatted during it. His coaches saw us and said: “you have such similar style, knees, dynamics; you should try it together!” Then I returned to Prague, my coach wanted to see us as well, because he was a bit skeptical at the beginning, but after that he urged me to go to Lyon, because he felt there was a chance we might compete at the Europeans or at least Nationals. Mrs. Koprivová [Czech figure skating coach who also worked a lot with Tomáš Verner] found our partnership very promising, so I was sent to Lyon.

What's it like to train in Lyon?
Lucie: It's superb, a very different, unusual lifestyle for me. In the Czech Republic people are always in a hurry, while in France they take their time. We have five hours of ice-time, the coaches follow everything, but they work with each couple for 20 or 30 minutes and the rest of the time we train by ourselves. So there is a lot of individual training. But the biggest difference is that the practices are in the morning. And the first months I begged: “Could it be a little bit later? Please, no 7.30!” But by now I'm used to getting up and 5.30 and I don't need more sleep. The atmosphere is really nice. Of course I miss Prague and Oberstdorf, but I feel great in Lyon as well.

Your first major competition together was the Europeans in Sheffield, where you placed 19th. Were you satisfied with that?
Neil: I was very happy, we skated really well. We were happy to pass the qualification round. I was a little bit disappointed on the last lift, which was level one, but it can't be perfect every time. Overall it was really good, it was one of the best free dances we've danced so far.
Lucie: Also the coaches were very satisfied with our free dance in the qualification; only the last lift gave us trouble. It hasn't happened so far that we've gotten level one for it. At the end I felt quite tired, so maybe that's why there was a mistake. But we really wanted to qualify, because we love our short dance so much and wanted to show it to the fantastic public in the arena. We both love Latino music and style.

Did you enjoy competing together in Sheffield?
Neil: It was amazing, for me it was also the very first major international competition. The arena was huge and crowded, and it was really nice to be on the ice. Skating with Lucie at this competition was really, really cool. I love skating with somebody who is as crazy as me. I had a great time on the ice!

How do you remember you starting out together?
Neil: When Lucie contacted me, I was actually considering giving up skating. I had had knee surgery and I wasn't sure that I could skate again. I didn't even answer her, because I said: “it's better to wait and see.” Then she contacted Romain [Haugenauer, Neil's coach], because she saw him in Merano, and she just came to Lyon for a week. The tryout was amazing, I had a really, really good feeling. I got the impression straight away that it would work for us together, even if the different techniques were still not completely working for us as a couple. But the energy was the same and it worked. So I was like: “yeah, let's do this!” And two weeks later Lucie came back to Lyon, and a month later we were getting ready for our first competition.

How hard it was to create your programs in such a short time?
Neil: Creating the programs is always good fun, it's easy. It probably takes a week to get both programs created. The hardest part comes after that, just working on them, trying to get them competition-ready. It was really tough. In Zagreb, at our first competition, it was our fifth run-through of the free dance. We really had no time; it was just getting through the elements and hoping for the best. That was interesting. But we kept on working; we practiced in Prague, then went to Ostrava for Nationals, then back to Prague. We had a very small break at Christmas, after that we practiced in Lyon and two weeks later was Europeans!

What's it like for you to represent the Czech Republic?

Neil: Very wisely I tried to do some research on the Czech Republic, so I would understand what's going on in the country, but I didn't really have much time for it. We just skate, skate, skate. I'm trying to learn a little bit of Czech and I'm happy to skate for the Czech Republic. I had a really good feeling about the federation, I met some very nice people there. Lucie and I respectively try to learn each others' languages: she's got a French book and I've got a Czech book. I try to pronounce Czech, but it's very difficult, because it's nothing like French. Meanwhile I'm trying to teach her French. It's kind of cool, kind of fun.

Tell us about your roots. Your name does not sound very French…

Neil: Oh my, this is complicated. I'm originally English, but born in France. I have British parents. I lived all my life in France, around Lyon, I've never lived in England, but I learnt English as a child and I speak both languages.

What did it mean to you to skate in England at the European championships?
Neil: It was kind of funny. Honestly, I try to block everything out when I'm skating, because you can be distracted very easily, but it was nice. I'm not overly patriotic, I am who I am, but it's definitely nice to be in an English-speaking country for my first Europeans.

What are your goals together?
Neil: This year we have just concentrated on learning how to work together and we haven't really cared about placements. We just wanted to be seen, noticed, and tried to get as many points as we could so that we would be eligible for the senior Grand Prix in the fall. [However, the couple didn't get any GP assignments.] We want to find out what suits us, which way of working is the best for us. It is very interesting; it's like building the basics of our relationship. This coming season we will definitely try to be National champions, and Sochi 2014 is obviously a huge goal. At this moment we are not thinking any further than that; we just take it as it goes.

Do you have some favourite skaters who inspire you?

Neil: I have many! From the current teams I love Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. They don't dance with movements, they dance with emotion. And I think that's what skating should be. Meryl Davis and Charlie White are also amazing. Emotionally not to the same extent as Tessa and Scott, in my opinion, but athletically they are just out of this world. Going back a few years, one of my all time favourites are Margarita Drobiazko and Povilas Vanagas [Lithuanian ice dancing couple, World and European bronze medallists, who still perform in shows], their emotions and choreographies were fantastic.
Lucie: I like the same skaters! Sinead and John Kerr are also a big inspiration. And I like Olivier Schoenfelder, who is also in Lyon as a coach. So we can see that he is not skating, he is flying on the ice.

How would you describe each other?
Neil: I would definitely describe Lucie as bubbly. That joy, happiness and energy is something I love. Even when she is kind of feeling down, she's always got peps and it's good to work with it. She is definitely a hard worker which I love and she knows how to have fun as well, which is very important. If we work really hard, we just need some time when we can go completely crazy. I'm kind of crazy and I think she resembles me. One of the first things I said to Muriel Zazoui after the tryouts was: “I love her, she is like me”. We can be crazy together, this is really cool.

And Lucie, how would you describe Neil?

Lucie: He is very active and enthusiastic at skating and at other stuff. We are quite the same, he is so nice, and we can talk about everything together. If we come to a practice and one of us is a little bit tired, we don't put each other off, we give each other energy. Usually it's me who says: “No, this won't work!”, so he says: “OK, let's try it five times”. After that I usually realize that it does work. Neil always holds me up when I'm not in a good mood.

How do you see this partnership in the future?
Lucie: We just want to do our best. I never stressed myself by setting exact goals, I just want to do what I can and be satisfied with our skating.
Neil: But it's not bad to sit down and say: "we are working towards the Olympics in 2014." What we want is to be ready for 2014 and be ready to skate well there. And if we are happy with what we do until then it's good.
Lucie: The best goal is to show our joy of skating to the crowd, so that they get the same satisfaction as us. Because we really do enjoy skating together!

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