Sunday, January 11, 2009

Detour via Moscow on the way to the top for French dance team

French ice dancers Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat are showing determination as they work their way to the top. They left their coaches, of ten years in Lyon, France to move to Moscow last summer, knowing that it wouldn't be easy to adapt to a foreign country. They couldn't speak the language and the lifestyle was quite different than that of their former home.

This season, the team placed third at Skate Canada and second at NHK Trophy, and narrowly missed qualifying for the Grand Prix Final. However, just before Christmas, they took their first national title at the senior level in the absence of the injured Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder, and are now aiming at a podium finish at the European Championship.

"At Europeans, our goal is to skate a good program with all we can do and to get a good score," said Bourzat. "The battle will be tough but a spot on the podium is something to envision."

Last year, the French felt they needed a major change in order to achieve their goals. "We've trained with Sasha (Zhulin) for three weeks in the summer (2007) and one week before Worlds last year," Pechalat recalled. "We realized that it worked very well for us because he really worked with us on our weaknesses. We felt he could help us to progress."

When Delobel and Schoenfelder decided they wanted to continue, Pechalat and Bourzat felt there was no room for them in Lyon. "We felt we couldn't progress anymore," said Pechalat, "and so we decided to leave for Moscow. The Olympic Games are not far away now and this was the time to go."

The team moved in in July, and the transition wasn't easy. "We had a lot of stress in June, July and in August," explained Pechalat. "We've been training with Muriel (Zazoui) and Romain (Haguenauer) for ten years and it was not easy to leave them. We had a good working relationship with them. But it is our career and we had to make a choice. We told ourselves we had to go."

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