Joubert hungers for full Grand Prix, mom's food

French 2007 world champion perfects technical elements while training away from home

Brian Joubert has won every Grand Prix Series event except Cup of China, and he has the chance to change that this week.
Brian Joubert has won every Grand Prix Series event except Cup of China, and he has the chance to change that this week. (Getty Images)


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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to
(10/30/2012) - Brian Joubert is scheduled to depart for China in the next few days, with the hope of winning the only Grand Prix he has never won: Cup of China. Several changes affected Joubert after the summer, as he had to relocate to Paris. There, Joubert was able to improve on his skating skills, but he had to leave his mom's cooking skills.

He graciously took the time to talk with about his new surroundings.

Joubert had already mentioned it a year ago: His home rink of Poitiers was scheduled to undergo major changes this season. It closed a few weeks ago for at least a year. Joubert had to relocate for the season to come. After unsuccessfully trying to get some ice at the nearby rink of Niort -- where he could have easily come back home every day -- he finally decided to relocate in Champigny, near Paris.

It was a major change in his life, as Joubert has always felt very connected to his home town of Poitiers and has declined many offers in the past to train abroad. So you train in Champigny now?

Joubert: Absolutely. There have been quite important changes in my life these last weeks but for the time being they do not bother me much. I feel rather good. I have found a new balance again. I really did not have much of a choice, but it may be an evil for a better. Altogether, this change is forcing me to change my own rhythm and maybe that's what I needed. Do you reside in Paris or in the suburbs?

Joubert: I live at INSEP, which stands for the Institute of Physical Education. That place is located in the Vincennes woods, a few miles east of Paris. It is quite impressive, actually. Downstairs from my own room, there is a chiropractor and a complete medical staff. I just sleep there, and then I drive to the rink, a few miles away.

We are a whole bunch of champions from all sports living in that residence. I am quite impressed to stay with so many young athletes. Amazingly enough, I am now feeling like a high-level athlete myself! It may be the right time for me. What is happening to your rink in Poitiers?

Joubert: They are trying to enlarge the arena. They are only keeping the walls. They have assured me that it would take no more than a year to complete. Now, the adjacent swimming pool has undergone similar restoration, and it took two years instead of one as they had planned originally. I hope they have learned in between! By the end of June, a new compressor should be working and the ice sheet should be ready, so I can go back and train there again to prepare for the Olympic season. Can you go back to Poitiers often?

Joubert: The good thing is that I can leave the INSEP around 6:30 p.m. every Friday night and catch a train to Poitiers at 8:00 p.m. By 9:30, thanks to the TGV (160 miles per hour fast train), I am at home. I can share my mom's unique cooking. Compared to the cafeteria food we get in Paris, it's worth the trip! Skating wise, you were a sensation in Nice at worlds last March. How do you feel now?

Joubert: Nice will remain as an extraordinary memory for me. I have lived other incredible memories throughout my career, of course, like worlds in Tokyo, Japan (2007), or Gothenburg, Sweden (2008), and a few Grand Prix. But Nice will stay very high on the list.

To come out of such a championship as I had the chance to -- all the more as it was taking place at home -- this was incredible for me. Skating at home has always been a challenge for me. Also, I was not at the best time of my career, especially after such a disappointing European championships (for the first time ever, Joubert did not medal at the 2012 Europeans. He finished eighth). So, it put me back on the right track, and I feel that I am still on that same track today. Although more than six months have passed by, I still experience that same serenity I experienced there. Are you still coached by Véronique Guyon?

Joubert: In Champigny, I had to switch to Annick Dumont, who I have known for the last 10 years (Joubert took from Dumont during the summer camps she organized every summer in Courchevel, in the French Alps). She is very passionate and she really pushes me to go beyond myself every day. I need someone like her at this time of my career. It's not so easy, when you've been doing the same thing every day for the last 12 years. With Annick it works.

As for Véronique [Guyon, Joubert's first and current coach], she had to be laid off by her home club of Poitiers, for economical reasons. She is still my coach, of course, but she needs to organize herself (she is still living in Poitiers) in connection with Annick so that we can work together again this year. What about your programs for this season?

Joubert: We have kept the same short program as last year. I feel good skating to it. Also, changing two programs the same year would be too difficult for me. We have just made slight modifications to it, with Giuseppe Arena, my choreographer. The long program is brand new, though. It is physically very demanding, and -- to be fully honest -- I am not 100 percent on it yet. It still requires hard work.

Contrary to last year's program, this one is a program to win. Last year I had skated to Matrix. That program was created in 2004 under the old judging system. This one is packed with technical difficulties and choreographic elements. Component-wise, it is a whole different dimension. I sincerely hope that it will be my Olympic program for 2014, too. With whom did you work for this one?

Joubert: I asked Albena Denkova and Maxim Stavisky to create that program for me, as they had done for the 2009-10 season. They came back to Poitiers to help me out. I really love them both. They are very professional and human people. Maxim proposed a piece from the soundtrack of Inception to me. When I heard it, I got goose bumps right away, so I said, "This is for me." Then, we had a music composer Maxim Rodriguez rearrange the whole to make it a skating program. It is very difficult, as the whole program goes crescendo from start to end, without one interruption. I have very limited time to just breathe! On the other hand, it is completely smooth and seamless. Components have been a challenge for you. What have you done to improve in that field?

Joubert: Every day in Champigny, we have a coach to work with us on our skating skills and components. Her name is Catherine Glaize and she used to be an ice dancer herself. She has devised some exercises to help us improve on our components. I learned to skate with less tension.

She teaches us how to breathe, how to skate in line with musical phrases. I need to put less effort into my skating, using my edges more than my physical strength. Of course, this impacts the artistic side of my skating. Believe it or not, it also impacts my jumping ability directly. It is quite amazing. You do not miss a quad only at the split second when you take off. You miss also a quad in the whole line before taking off. Now you are headed to Cup of China, the only Grand Prix you have never won. If you win it, you will become the first skater ever to win all six Grand Prix Series events. Is that your goal?

Joubert: Winning is of course my goal. Yet, I know that the will to win can put some additional pressure on myself. This is not something I want. In fact, my real objective would be at least to get a good start for the season. If it goes well in China, then I will be more confident at the Trophée Eric Bompard mid-November.

It would, of course, be my goal to qualify for the Grand Prix Final in Sochi so that I can "feel" the Olympic rink. That would be quite important emotionally for me. My real goal is Sochi, you know. Still, there are some important stages, which help me see where I stand and what I need to work on. At Cup of China, I would like to show the international judges that I am still able to improve on the artistic side. So far, I have had only some compliments -- on costume, choreography, skating skills ... I just need to lose six more pounds to be completely fit. That Parisian food is definitely not as good as the cooking from Joubert's mom!