This weekend was an important one for French figure skating, with the election of a new president of the Federation having taken place in Paris.
The vote had on opposing sides, Gwendal Peizerat and incumbent president, Didier Gailhaguet.
The importance of the vote was due to Gailhaguet’s polemical term at the head of the Federation the last four years.
Indeed, he was widely criticized for France’s lack of medals at the 2014 Olympics in all ice-related sports. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back, as it came at the end of four years of turbulence and instability, which led many French athletes to refer to France as a henceforth “small nation of ice sports,” with a Federation led by the power of one man.
The candidacy of Peizerat, a former Olympic ice dance champion was welcomed by many athletes and officials as a positive initiative. Many hoped that a victory for Peizerat would help the Federation renew and focus on getting ice sports back on track, rather than continuing to fuel internal political battles and potentially moving towards sclerosis.
But Gailhaguet defeated Peizerat earning 65% of the votes, while Peizerat was only able to gather 34%.
The system that governs the voting process for the French Federation has two steps. First, every person who participates in an ice sport in France and is a member of a club has one vote, which they are expected to cast in the election of a president. Each club has a different weight in the vote, according to the number of members it has.
What happened this weekend was that even though many clubs decided not to side with Gailhaguet, the bigger ones in terms of members, chose to endorse him for another four-year term.
This will be Gailhaguet’s third consecutive mandate at the head of the French Ice Sports Federation and its fourth overall (he had formerly been elected in 1998 but was suspended by the ISU following the judging scandal in Salt Lake City).
Peizerat released a statement following saying that he was appalled by the voting outcome and especially how it will affect the young French athletes.
However, the support he received represents half of the ice sports clubs in France. Unfortunately, these are small clubs, which were not able to outnumber the volume of members that belong to the larger clubs, and which voted in Gailhaguet’s favor.
Gailhaguet is now back in office for four more years. This election will raise many criticisms and cause a lot of ink to flow. However, it has proven that even though Gailhaguet may have been in the midst of several firestorms that could have razed his career for good, he always finds a way back.