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Joubert says it's a three man race at worlds

French skater says it's between him, Takahashi and Lambiel for title

Joubert is out of the Coupe de Nice.
Joubert is out of the Coupe de Nice. (Lynn Rutherford )

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(03/20/2008) - Brian Joubert told the press on Thursday that he is ready to pull out the quads and defend his title.

Saying he feels no ill effects from his bout with an energy-sapping virus that compromised his training for the 2008 European Championships this January, the Frenchman looked fit, rested and at a healthy weight.

"I have just arrived here yesterday," he said. "I had a very good warm-up [practice], and I am very confident.

"My health is great. I feel very good; I feel strong. Since Europeans, I have worked my free program with three quads -- two quad toes and one quad Salchow. I know I am ready to do it, and I can do it. Now, I will see after the short program if I have to do one quad, two quads or three quads to win."

Unlike rival Stéphane Lambiel, who talked yesterday of his dissatisfaction with ice conditions here in Gothenburg, Joubert shrugged off concerns about the event's practice schedule.

"I was a little bit surprised, because I thought I [would have] a practice before the short program, maybe Friday morning, in the main arena, but I won't," he said.

"For me, it is not a big problem, because the [two] rinks are the same size, and I heard the quality of the ice is very similar."

Gothenburg caps a difficult season for the skater, who has struggled to find his form over his past several competitions.

After winning Skate Canada in November despite a disappointing free program, Joubert developed a resistant virus. Forced to withdraw from his country's signature Grand Prix, the Trophée Eric Bompard, he did not qualify for the ISU Grand Prix Final in December.

Joubert returned in time to win his nationals, but at the '08 Europeans in Zagreb, he placed third behind Tomas Verner and Stephane Lambiel.

"In November, I had a virus but I didn't know what it was, because there is no name for it," he said. "I just know I was very tired. I couldn't skate more than 20 minutes in practice; I couldn't do my second Grand Prix, and I was late and couldn't be ready for Europeans.

"Last season was great; everything was perfect. This season is very interesting for me. I need this kind of season to get ready for 2010. But I love to skate, and that is why I am fighting, and I will fight for this competition."

Joubert's fourth-place free skate at Europeans was a particular disappointment. He turned out of an opening quad toe loop, put a hand down on his first triple Axel and fell on his second triple Axel attempt.

"After Zagreb, we made some changes in both routines," he said. "I worked a lot with [my coach] Jean-Christophe Simond in my hometown of Poitiers. I am ready to compete, and I want to retain my world title.

"I've done some changes in the short program, in the order of the elements. I had been doing the quad [toe] combo, then triple Lutz, and then triple Axel. Here, I am going to do combination, triple Axel, and then triple Lutz. For the long program, I have also put the Axel [earlier], and we have changed the way I do the footwork."

Joubert made another change, this one forced by more stringent rules concerning the sport's toe pick-assisted jumps, the flip and the Lutz.

The Frenchman generally executes his flip take-off on an incorrect outside edge. Beginning this season, this is now designated by an "e" on the judge's scoring detail, and a negative Grade of Execution is automatically assessed.

"You know I did [a triple flip] at Europeans, and it was okay," Joubert said, echoing the concerns of many skaters and coaches about inconsistent technical callers.

"I learned the triple flip like this, and last season I was world champion with this triple flip. So I find a solution -- I won't put the jump in my free program. I will do two triple Lutzes in my free program, and that's it.

"I am still working on this jump. Before, I worked a quad flip. It was a goal, and now, with the deduction, it is difficult for me."

Although confident, Joubert acknowledged there are other skaters who could snatch away his crown.

"I think it's going to be very difficult, like every world championship, because there are three skaters who can win the world title -- Stéphane Lambiel, Daisuke [Takahashi] and me," he said, later discounting Verner by repeating, "I think it is between Daisuke, me and Stéphane Lambiel."

At the end of the press conference, Joubert responded to a question about Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko's vow to return to eligible competition by aiming a few shots at his old rival.

"I saw him in a show in Torino in October, and when I saw him, I told myself he will not come back," he said.

"Technically, it was very bad, and physically he [had] gained weight. I think it will be very difficult [for him to return], but maybe it would be very interesting for the audience. We will see."