Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat’s love affair with Russia has come to an end. In early May, the 2011 European ice dance champions were forced to leave their training base in Moscow and bid farewell to their coaches, Alexander Zhulin and Oleg Volkov.
“Unfortunately, we were not given any choice but to leave Russia,” Péchalat told IFS with a hint of bitterness.
Disappointed by the results of the 2010 Olympic Games where skaters claimed only two medals and no titles, the Russian authorities decided to take action. With the 2014 Winter Olympic Games taking place in Sochi, they plan to invest more money in the sport. Therefore, a number of Russian coaches were offered financial incentives to return to their native country to work with Russian skaters. The stipulation attached is that they are no longer permitted to work with foreign skaters.
“Sasha and Oleg were not in that situation because they started to coach us in 2008,” Bourzat said. “But we all knew that it would become more and more difficult. It was tough, especially when we defeated all the Russian teams at Europeans in late January.”
Following the 2011 World Championships, Péchalat and Bourzat met with their coaches. “We all realized that we had to adapt to the situation,” Péchalat explained. “We discussed this openly and we knew that our story together was over. We had to move on.
“We were sad but thankful and will never forget that with their help, we improved many important aspects of our skating, including our basic skating skills.”
Péchalat and Bourzat immediately began look-ing for a new training base. “We came up with different ideas and coaches, but one team emerged quickly — Anjelika Krylova and Pasquale Camerlengo,” Bourzat said. “We met Anjelika in Moscow when she worked in the shows Sasha choreographed for Russian TV. She is exactly in Zhulin’s footsteps as she perpetuates the basics and technique he taught us.
“When we first started our career, Pasquale was assisting Muriel Boucher and Romain Haguenauer in Lyon. We liked his creativity and the flow he brought to our programs. He will help regenerate our style. The chemistry is already there.”
In early May they went to Detroit to prepare for their relocation. “It was necessary to see where we will practice and live,” Bourzat said. “With three ice rinks, five coaches, a physiotherapist, floor teacher and someone in charge of our physical condition, the structure is very professional. We have all the conditions to improve on what we have done so far.”
Péchalat liked what she saw. “Everybody was very helpful and friendly and made us feel at home,” she said. “Our teammates are notably the Canadian dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje. We also met Alissa Czisny and Jeremy Abbott, who share the same facilities with us.”
Another French skater facing an identical situation is Florent Amodio. His coach Nikolai Morozov returned to Russia, but remains the coach of Miki Ando and Spain’s top skater, Javier Fernandez. “We have built a very strong bond,” Amodio said. “My success, especially being crowned European champion, was because of him. He was as happy as me.”
Morozov told French officials that he was independent and that nobody would dictate to him what to do. But the Russian federation told Didier Gailhaguet (president of the French federation) that working with Morozov in Russian facilities came at a cost, though no amount was openly disclosed.
“I would very much like to keep him as my choreographer,” Amodio said. “We have already planned to spend part of the summer working in the U.S. As Nikolai is not always available and he is sometimes unpredictable, the French federation decided that I would be supported technically by
Zakarajsek’s reputation as one of the best technicians in the world is valuable for Amodio, who lacks a quad in his arsenal. “I know his experience will help me to gain back the quad Salchow I have not landed for a while in competition,” Amodio explained. “And training in the same rink as Patrick Chan will be motivating.”
“We had to move on and we made that decision.”
Originally published in August 2011