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Sport loses one its 'best friends' in Chataigneau

Former U.S. Figure Skating photographer fondly recalls recently passed colleague

The article's author catches Gerard Chataigneau doing one of the things he loved most: taking photographs of figure skaters.
The article's author catches Gerard Chataigneau doing one of the things he loved most: taking photographs of figure skaters. (Paul Harvath)

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By Paul Harvath, special to icenetwork.com
(11/26/2012) - Gerard Chataigneau, a longtime Canadian figure skating photographer, died of a heart attack Monday, Nov. 12. A presence in the sport for decades, Chataigneau may be best known for The Figure Skating Calendar, which he produced annually. Paul Harvath, U.S. Figure Skating's official photographer for nearly 30 years, remembers his friend.

When you come across an article on icenetwork.com that contains the words "passion," "persistence" and "perfection," you would think you were reading about an artist who spends an inordinate amount of time in an ice rink, working tirelessly to perfect his or her craft.

You would be right, but the artist in question is not a skater.

Gerard Chataigneau succumbed suddenly to a heart attack two weeks ago, and in that moment, figure skating lost one of its biggest fans and greatest representatives.

When I met Gerard, we were ice dancing at a social event in Toronto sometime in the mid 1980s. The sport was wonderful: fast, musical, flirtatious and, frankly, really hard to do well.

While the skating would eventually fade in Gerard's life, we both shared a second passion in which we thought we could succeed. We both endeavored to be really good at taking photographs of figure skaters, to represent these special athletes in an artistic manner and to show their unique personalities on the ice.

Throughout the '80s, '90s and then the new millennium, we crossed paths many times at competitions and ice shows around the world. Our skills improved, our business plans became refined, and Gerard found himself as the creator of The Figure Skating Calendar. He spent countless hours, and seeming endless amounts of money, perfecting this product to represent these athletes as the true artists they are.

The Figure Skating Calendar was a product of pure, driven passion to be as perfect as humanly possible. Gerard's persistence was second to none, his portfolio will always remain second to none, and his passion for figure skating was so dearly unique in press rooms filled with deadlines and hum-drum headlines. Many photographs are taken of these beautiful athletes; few of those images are treated with the respect and care that Gerard used in the preparation of his beautiful calendar.

Figure skating has lost one of its most important historians and greatest fans. Rest in peace, my friend. You will be remembered as one of the best friends this sport has ever known.