Paris potpourri: Plush toys, princesses and pairs

Those puffy armchairs still remain; 'Tis better to be a referee than a journalist

John Nicks sits in one of the more conventional style of chairs set up in the kiss and cry.
John Nicks sits in one of the more conventional style of chairs set up in the kiss and cry. (Peter Zapalo)


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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to
(11/17/2012) - Jean-Christophe Berlot checks in before day two of Trophée Eric Bompard with a smattering of notes about the competition.

Ice skating strange animals...

This section does not deal with skating mothers, those "strange animals with green eyes who can be seen around ice rinks and who are overprotective of their children," as a very serious SKATING magazine article was putting it, back in 1954.

It actually deals with the plush toys that skaters receive after their performance. Take Nan Song, for example. The Chinese skater came out rather disappointed from his short program Friday afternoon (he finished sixth), when he missed his combination twice. All of a sudden, as he was coming off the ice, right from behind the judges, one of his fans sent him a big panda plush toy. The panda rolled over the ice as only bears can do, his good eyes wide open. It even managed to bring back a smile to Nan's face. The Chinese champion was seen with his panda around the arena afterward.

Just two hours later, French skater Maé Bérénice Méité (standing in fourth position in the ladies) was seen wearing a huge elephant that was almost covering her. The more years pass by, the bigger plush toys grow.

We love you that much, skaters!

Princess Caroline of Monaco is in Bercy

Skating is a matter of princesses. Ashley Wagner and Christina Gao are two of the best representatives of ice princesses. Their programs were carefully watched by another princess: Princess Caroline de Hanovre, princess of Monaco, was in attendance in the stands with her younger daughter.

"Her daughter is learning to skate," explained Didier Lucine, the renowned coach in Annecy.

Didier's son, Kim, has been representing Monaco for the last few seasons.

By the way, maybe it was Caroline herself who sent that big panda to Nan Song?

What a true pair is

Cheng Peng entered into the press conference room for the first time of her young career, after she and her partner Hao Zhang finished third in the pairs short program. After the glitter of the ice, she then looked like what she is -- a 15-year-old with an enthusiastic smile and heavy thick glasses.

A number of photographers asked the newly formed pair for a photo. After a few shots, Hao stopped and requested to start all over again. He then took Cheng's glasses away from her eyes, saying that it would be much better this way, and put Cheng's head close to his again. With an even bigger smile.

The good thing about being a pair is that there is always something to learn from your partner.

Those armchairs...

Whoof. Remember those white, puffy armchairs that were placed on the kiss and cry scene on Thursday? They have remained there, but ... more classical chairs have been placed for the athletes and their coaches. No one has used the puffy armchairs so far, except a few skaters waiting for their practice. Maybe they are there only for display.

Is Eric Bompard launching an armchair line?

Inaccessible checkpoints...

Last year at this event, there were some very special (though highly selective) seats for audiences who wanted to learn and understand a bit more about the evaluation of skaters: They were right behind the technical controller. From there, you could get an idea of what was going on, which were the elements and the levels, and even get to see the replays they used to check the change of edges of spins.

This special treat did not last long.

This year, the organizers of the Bompard trophy have corrected what obviously was too interesting. The three rows of seats behind the technical panel are now inaccessible. It would, however, have been so useful to understand those new short dance "checkpoints." Now you need binoculars to see the controllers' screen. Needless to say, it's not very practical.

Esoteric skating

Asked about it, a grand senior judge wisely answered: "Can it still be called a sport when you need the replay to check what was really performed? How do you want the audience to understand, if we do not even [understand] ourselves?!"

Do you want to be a referee?

You may find that comment out of place, but there is no security to access the restroom the judges use. Just prior to the competition, one of the event referees happened to be washing his hands. Guess what: He was also wearing one of those accreditation bracelets similar to those of the journalists. He did not hesitate to wash it thoroughly.

"I'll get a new one when this one is torn down," he said, unashamedly.

Something journalists do not have the right to ask for. It's better to be a referee, sometimes.

By the way: If you want to be an accredited referee, you have to print a brown bracelet, not a blue one. If you have a blue one, you are a journalist only. You can still access the same restrooms, but that's it.