Confident James, Cipres zoom into Skate America

French pair enters first Grand Prix event after strong showing at Nebelhorn

French pair Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès carry plenty of optimism into Kent, Wash.
French pair Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès carry plenty of optimism into Kent, Wash. (Getty Images)


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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to
(10/18/2012) - Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès have started this new season with renewed ambitions. They showed their progress at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, where they won the bronze medal, behind Russians Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov and Americans Caydee Denney and John Coughlin, but in front of 2012 European silver medalists Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov.

They were just ready to leave for the United States and Skate America, when got a hold of them. How would you describe your path together, if you look back on it?

Ciprès: Basically, we had three stages so far. The first one was to discover one another and start working together. I had never skated in pairs, and Vanessa's first partner, Yannick Bonheur, had decided to stop.

James: At first, it was far from easy. Few people trusted us, really, and several officials even tried to make us split altogether. We had to hold on to it and believe strongly in one another. That is just what we did.

Ciprès: In the second stage, we had to start competing together. Vanessa had to get used to me and I had to get used to her, although she already knew what it took to skate in pairs. Now we have reached a third stage in our path -- I would say it happened last summer. We have found our own way to work together, and also we have good programs which fit both our skating style and personalities.

James: Our first year together was like a roller coaster, really. We experienced several changes, going from one coach to the next in France. We could not find our own way of doing things as we had to switch techniques several times that season.

Ciprès: Now we have one stable coach (Claude Péri at the Bercy Arena of Paris), and we have found our own way to perform our twists, thrown jumps or lifts. It did show in Oberstdorf. We had come to finish in the top five and skate at the gala, which we love to do. We were really surprised to medal there and beat our Russian friends. Our components rose amazingly, and we certainly never thought that we would have such a start this season.

James: Yet we had been skating both our programs clean for about four weeks then. We were ready. We tried our first triple twist in competition ever, and it worked quite well.

Ciprès: Our triple twist is getting better literally day after day. Stanislav Morozov did compliment us for both our throw triple flip and triple twist. It was a great pleasure to hear him. We love to feel encouraged, especially by great skaters. Just like Maxim Trankov; he said very positive things [to] us, and we really appreciated it. He is one of my idols!

James: We had made a bet with our young teammates on the French team, Daria Popova and Bruno Massot (they finished fifth in Oberstdorf). We bet that we would land our triple flip and triple twist, and that similarly, they would achieve their own triple twist and parallel triple toes. Guess what? It worked perfectly for our two pairs! You mentioned that your programs did fit you better this season. What are they?

Ciprès: The short is on Mambo Taka and Safri Duo, and we skate the free to the soundtrack of the movie Pearl Harbor. I had already skated to it in singles some years ago, and I had won the "young Elite" French national championship back then. It's a music I love, a movie I love, and a great story on which one can transmit strong emotions.

James: Morgan made the choice. Tatiana [Volosozhar] and Stanislav [Morozov] had skated to that music at the 2010 Games, and I loved it. So I rallied Morgan's choice right away. How would you describe yourselves as a pair?

James: We are super great friends. We have even had a short experience of living together. It's important.

Ciprès: It's important to show the audience that we are buddies and really together on the ice. We are a pair that gets along well.

James: When Morgan is here for me, it helps me, and when I am here for him, it helps him as well.

Ciprès: It's not easy when things do not work out well on the ice. Yet, it's important to [leave] anything that may happen in good understanding and complicity.

James: This sport is not always easy, especially when you are two. We are not always at our peak at the same time. Sometimes things happen to him and not to me, sometimes it is the opposite. We need to understand one another. And talk. Talking is a very important element of our pair. All pairs are not like that. When we see Nathalie [Péchalat] and Fabian [Bourzat] (who skate with them in the French team), they have known one another for 15 years. We have only known each other for two years! What is your objective now?

Ciprès: The No. 1 objective is the Games in Sochi. It is quite accessible. Yet, there are several stages before then. Skate America is one, and we do not want to miss it. After that, we will skate at the Trophée Eric Bompard and French nationals. All Grand Prix are difficult. We are quite impatient to show how much we have improved since last season. The good thing is that now we have no more parasites in our head. It's all gone.

James: We will arrive as completely unknown at Skate America. If we manage to touch the audience, it will be wonderful, and I know how it can feel (James has great memories from worlds back in 2009, when she and Bonheur skated to 12th place and got a standing ovation from the audience).

Ciprès: We really want to give it all to the audience. In Oberstdorf, we could see that the audience liked the program, especially the second half of the short. We hope it will be the same at Skate America. We love to be encouraged! How is your English?

(James laughs, as she was raised in the English language)

Ciprès: Well, I did my first press conference in English in Oberstdorf, and apparently John and Caydee seemed to understand what I was saying!