Pechalat, Bourzat emerge as ice dance force

Team ready to take the lead for France

Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat look to take home the gold medal in Finland.
Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat look to take home the gold medal in Finland. (Getty Images)


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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to
(02/02/2010) - Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat are the pleasant surprise of French ice dancing.

Even though they did not manage to medal at the European Championship, their Grand Prix season (they won silver at both the Eric Bompard Trophy and at Skate Canada and bronze at the ISU Grand Prix Final in Tokyo) proved that they were on the right track. While 2008 world champions Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder are still struggling to recover their Olympic shape, Péchalat and Bourzat appear as the clear leaders of French ice dancing, as they are now getting ready to represent France at the Olympics. First, can you update us on Fabian's ankle?
Bourzat: Everything is back to normal now. I just had a torn ligament, and I needed to rest my ankle for a few weeks. It all happened one Monday morning in Moscow [where the duo trains permanently]. We started to train a bit too harsh and during the twizzles, I was not completely above my skates. I felt right away that there was a problem, but we continued skating. Then, landing the salto I perform at the end of our twizzles certainly did not help.
Péchalat: We rested as much as we could, but we had to train for our competitions. I was training by myself; the least we can say is that we did not arrive in Tokyo [for the Grand Prix Final] so well-prepared. So we were very grateful for the result. Now we skate both our programs completely every day.

IN: What happened at the Europeans? Was it a big disappointment for you?
Bourzat: We started with a rather poor result on our compulsory Golden Waltz, which forced us to take more risks in the original dance. The main contenders had some difficulties then [Sinead Kerr and John Kerr of Great Britain, and Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski of Russia tumbled on their twizzles], and we started our free dance so close from the podium [Péchalat and Bourzat were only 0.02 points behind 3rd place Khokhlova and Novitski].
Péchalat: We really love that O.D., and we have skated those two minutes and 30 seconds over and over so many times. We knew that we needed to skate great, but at the same time, we needed to skate safe not to lose points on the elements. I told myself to add more edges to get the levels, yet at the same time, we needed to limit the risks. The ice was harder than usual, so it may explain why so many had problems.
Bourzat: In the free dance, everything went great, but at the end of the diagonal I was completely exhausted and I could not hold my ankle. I felt unbalanced and tumbled on the final salto. This element is really risk-taking. It does not bring points, but we feel it does enrich the program...(Laughing) Let's say that I did a mistake at the end, and she was so mad at me that she let me fall! [Péchalat watches him without a smile. "This is not funny!" she mumbles].
Péchalat: We were not disappointed per se. Last year, we had really skated our best, and so we were very disappointed not to medal [and finish fourth overall]. This year was different; it was our fault. We made a big mistake on the twizzle at the end of our free dance, and we lost several points there. Medaling last year would have been a big surprise, and I love good surprises. This year we came to medal, and we simply missed it. I simply hope that one day we will be good enough to gain a medal without any problem on the ice for us or anyone. There is no disappointment to have, only work to do.

IN: What aspect of your skating are you working on at the moment?
Péchalat: Power, definitely. We need to improve our physical condition. Now we have understood the technique for the program, and we mastered it, so we can work on power extensively. When we skate our whole program, Sasha [Zhulin, their coach] follows us and yells at us: "Run! Run! Run away!" while pushing us. Pushing us makes us develop power. At first we could hold the rhythm for one minute, then one minute and a half, then two...We worked this way until we could skate to the end of the program with the same power.

IN: You are known for the originality and creativeness of your programs. What does that bring you?
Péchalat: We have fun! We love inventing new things with professional dancers and with our coaches. The creation process is the part we prefer, actually. After we have created a program, we need to work hard to make it automatic for us to skate. At that point we usually get a bit depressed, as we need to repeat it over and over, make changes and repeat and repeat again. Once we have it "in our legs," as we say, when we can skate all the elements and transitions, then we can start having fun with our program again. To tell you the truth, we already have our ideas for next season. We take it one thing at a time, and our real goal for now is the Olympics!

I love our free dance for that reason: we created a story, and then we worked on our style to show what we had learned. It is wonderful for us to transpose what we learn directly onto the ice.

IN: How do you see the evolution of your skating, then?
Péchalat: We certainly feel carried out by the "plus" of creating a theme and a story. We would like to promote creation, emotion and innovation in ice dancing. We surely wish they could be more taken into account. This would be important both for skaters and for the audience. Creating something interesting and entertaining to watch, needs to be valued. Ice dancing is a matter of edges and positions and cleanness. Yet it is also a matter of creation and emotion. Especially in ice dance, where audiences can expect to be surprised!