Romain Haguenauer: Now we have a new situation

Translated from a German Interview 

He is probably the most sought-after coach in the world at the moment. His athletes are the best ice dancers in the world. He works with Olympians and with world champions. Many try to figure out his concept for the success of his athletes to defeat the French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron. In this interview, the coach Romain Haguenauer talks about his work, about his athletes, his goals and dreams. But he, too, must sometimes add criticism.

Q - Do you work with the best ice skaters in the world, has it become harder for you this season, after you have got a top pair, the Olympic winners Tessa Vitue and Scott Moir from Canada?
A - Absolutely not. Everyone has to learn. I work with the world champions Gabriella and Guillaume and at the same time with Tessa and Scott. I train two top teams and they are very strong. It is good to work with these athletes, who have high qualities. They also differ from each other. No, it is not difficult, but that is a very high level and every little mistake can be crucial in this case. We work hard on precision and we also have to achieve two different styles. It is not complicated, but means - a lot of work.

Q - How many pairs are you currently training?
A - At the moment we have 13 to 15 pairs, that is, two of them do not train full-time, they are preparing for the national championships, but are often in training.

Q - How do you find time for all athletes?
A - I spend a lot of time on the ice, every day I’m there from 7am to 5pm. Now we are fully utilized because we can guarantee the certain quality - for all figure skaters. And we never have more than five pairs on the ice at the same time. We also train many juniors and try to offer everyone the same training quality.

Q - What makes Tessa and Scott different from the French?
A - The most important difference is the story of each couple: Tessa and Scott - they are back in competitions, they have already a super carriade behind them and they have reached the most important goal: their Olympiasieg and they have a lot of competition experience. They said they are coming back because they have not yet achieved everything they wanted to achieve. But I do not mean now the results - but the work, the artistry. It is clear that they have come back to win. But it is particularly important for them to have fun, to train and to compete again. They do not have to prove anything, they have proved everything in their past.

Gabriella and Guillaume are two-time world champions, they are very young, only 21 and 22. And Tessa and Scott are 28 and 29 years old. They are two generations and they have two different stories. Gabriella and Guillaume have quickly become national champions, European champions and world champions. Now they face a new challenge they did not know before. They have got a very strong competition. It will be very close between the two couples. There are no problems during the training in Montreal. In the competition, we have a new situation, which we have already seen in Marseille (Gabriella and Guillaume have only been second in the Grand Prix final.) Tessa and Scott have won - editor’s note). You must learn to deal with it. This is a great lesson for them. They want to win the World Cup and at the Olympic Games, so they must be able to deal with the pressure - that is new to them. The first time they had nothing to lose, they won the title. The second time it was because of the brainwashing of Gabriella another situation and the two were just glad to be able to run at competitions at all. Now they have to win against very strong runners all season. But I am happy that they are learning it now. They have to do this at the Weilmeisterschaften and at the Olympic Games. But they are very strong and if they take the situation positively, they become even stronger.

Q - Do these two top pairs train at the same time?
A - Sometimes they train together, sometimes not. We just look at what we have to work with every couple. But these are two different situations: training together is not a problem. You need to focus on running clean as best as you can. For the coach it is the same - I give my best to the one and the others. We work with them and do not consider them as competitors. We work to give them the best training so they can run as well as possible. I am not a judge, I give my best and they have to work with it. Judges will then make a decision at competitions.

Q - How do you find the idea, because that is the big challenge to create something that is even better than what already exists?
A- This is always difficult to develop new ideas, but this is a decision of the team. Gabriella and Guillaume discuss the ideas with us coaches, they suggest something, I suggest something, as well as Marie France and Patrice. You want to show something more, Contemporary. They want a music unusual for figure skating, they want to show more artistry. I think this is very good. We have to work a lot to be the best. I believe that is a revolution in the ice dance and Gabriella and Guilaume lead them. They are very young and probably they will still run 6 or 7 years.

Q - I’ve also heard some critical points. Their dances are very beautiful, but they do not tell a story …
A - A dance can tell a story, but we work deeper with Gabriella and Guillaume. We work with emotions, with feelings. Perhaps people do not understand the whole story: Our goal is to create emotions. Sometimes when you go to the ballet and do not know the story - but still they are captured by the emotions - there is true interpretation. If you play Scheherazade or Charlie Chaplin - that’s all clear, but Gabriella and Guillaume do not want that. They want more. It is difficult to describe. I believe the artistic level is so high, because that is very complicated. It is easy to wear certain costumes to play a character, but they do not want that. They want to stay them themselves and express deep emotions. This has brought them success last year and I am sure this year it could also be successful - if they are technically clean.

Q - How do you see the future of the ice dance?
A - I do not know … In Marseille, I saw the best six couples and they showed very nice and interesting shows. Many try to offer more dancers compared to the Olympic Games in Sochi. In our discipline there are clear leaders - and are Gabriella and Guillaume and now they are Tessa and Scott. They drive the level up and other athletes try to defeat them and work even more than usual. Perhaps there is also criticism, but at the moment many try to show the same as we do.

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