Jamal came, skated and impressed the whole world

Part II

by Helga Dobor & CĂ©line Oreiller
photos © Dushenka & Jamal Othman

'We fit together perfectly'

You have always had the same coach, but do you also train with other coaches to get different advice and a different skating "approach"?
Ever since I took my first steps on the ice - when I was 6 years old - I have been with Jacqueline Kiefer. She has good friends in Atlanta, USA, who are coaches too: Herbert Wiesinger and Almut Peyper, and since the summer of 2001, I go there once a year to train. I have also participated at the super summer camp in Flims, SUI about four times now, I train with Victor Kudriavtsev. I’m going to do that again this summer because we, my coach and I, think it helps me a lot, and it’s good to get some other input.


What can you tell us about your coach, Jacqueline Kiefer?
Jacqueline is a former figure skater, even a professional for several years. She toured 5 years with Holiday on Ice. In 1987 she got her diploma as a Swiss figure skating teacher. And since last year she’s even Master Coach of the PSA (Professional Skaters Association of America).

In 1984 she started teaching in Bern and became the coach of the Swiss top skaters.
As I said, I’ve been with her since I started skating. It was she who taught me to skate the way I do. But she doesn’t only coach me on the ice; she also accompanies me to all my competitions and manages the main part of my career. We’ve been all over the world together: Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Romania, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Norway, USA, Canada, China, Japan, and Russia. In all these countries it was Jacqueline Kiefer who looked after me on and off the ice, competition or practice, whatever. We fit together perfectly. We’ve spent a lot of time together in many different places; but whenever and wherever we are, I am very happy to be with her, and I’m extremely grateful. There might be many skaters saying this, but I know it’s true for me; I have the best coach in the world!

'Not just a dream'

What are your goals in skating?
Right now I want to become consistent in my triple Axel and my triple-triple combinations. Then, my goal for the next season will certainly be to qualify for the Olympic Games in Torino. I am at the beginning of my senior skating career, and I want to improve myself continuously, and get up to the top step by step. I guess I have time, at least until the Olympics in 2010! Other than that, I always wanted to participate in all major figure skating championships, like in Euros, Worlds and the Olympics. I really hope to reach this. I’d also like to be in the world’s top ten, someone whose skating will be remembered as long as possible.

Most skaters dream of going to the Olympics next year. What are the requirements for you to get sent?
Yes, I’m definitely dreaming of going. But maybe it’s not just a dream; rather it’s my next bigger goal. There will be four competitions in the beginning of the season, where I have the possibility to qualify. I have to get 160 points in the short and free program together and I have to reach a defined rank that’s different from competition to competition. I don’t have a special strategy for getting there; I’ll just do it!

'Skaters don’t have times for hobbies!'

You are currently a student?
I have exams in June and will be graduating from high school. Then I’ll take one year off, because it’s the Olympic season and I want to invest the most I can into my skating career. After that I might go to University. A first idea I had was to study law, but I’m not too sure about that yet. First of all I want to skate and learn languages.

Your French is very good, what other languages do you speak?
Thanks! German is my native language, and in school we have to learn French first, and then English. I took Italian for two years too, I understand quite a lot but I don’t speak it so well. In August I will start learning Russian as I’m becoming more and more convinced that this language is essential for skaters!

And you have been to Malaysia?
Yes, I’ve been there two times already, and I’ll go again this summer. It’s a beautiful country; tropical climate that I love anyway, huge and modern cities and paradises like beaches. It’s a dream! This summer I’ll even practice train there and skate in exhibitions. I was invited to skate in Kuala Lumpur, the capital. I’m looking forward; it’s going to be a great experience!

What do you like about your own country Switzerland?
I love my country! Whenever I’ve been gone and come home to Switzerland, to Bern, I feel so happy. To know that you arrive where you’ve spent your whole life, where you know a huge crowd of people, where everything is familiar to you, is a great feeling every time. In Switzerland everything works, everything is on time, everything is clean…I know these are clichés, but most of it is true anyway. And compared to abroad it really is a perfectly organised country, which is somehow reassuring.
I love travelling and I love being abroad, that’s another great thing about figure skating; but I’m never sad to return home.

If you could be anyone for 24 hours, who would you choose to be?
That's a difficult question! There are many people whose lives must be extraordinary and really worth it to live for 24 hours... But what would be really cool is to be able to look into other people’s minds. Well, one who could do that would probably go crazy very soon, but one could learn different points of views, and things people don’t dare talking about. This would be fascinating!
(And in the end the question remained unanswered...)

What is your connection with your fans?
There’s nothing in particular I can tell you, and during competitions I don’t have that much to do with them. But signing autographs and smiling for pictures is a nice part of my work, as it shows that what I do is recognised and even liked by the people. That motivates me to go on.

How does the reaction of the audience affect you?
It’s always different. When you feel sure about yourself, when you are in a good shape and when you have confidence in your strengths, then applause makes you fly. It makes you feel satisfied with the work you’ve done, and the performance you are showing at that very moment, because the audience admits looking at you with joy. Other times a loud audience can make you nervous and put even more pressure on you. That happens when you don’t feel like you’re in the shape you want to be in to perform. It can be difficult to deal with, but it’s something everyone has to learn. Overall I think the audience is an important factor in a figure skating competition and should be the one who we work for, besides ourselves.

Someone told me that you were a blond and unruly child, is it true?
I wonder who told you! But yes, it’s true; I had shoulder-long blond, curly hair.
There are some funny stories my mom tells sometimes. For example, I went through this phase when I was about four years old, where I refused to eat anything that wasn’t green. Strange, I know, and I don’t remember my reason, I probably I didn’t even have one, ha!

What is your hobby?
My hobby??? You should know better, figure skaters don’t have times for hobbies! No, it’s not that bad, but I really don’t have time for a big hobby besides skating. Whenever I have some free time, I meet friends and go out to dinner, drink a cup of coffee, or party!

What about computers?
Yes, I use the computer, but it’s more or less just part of my communication and work equipment. I like to work with it though. That’s why I manage a part of my website on my own.


Go back to Part II


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