Brian Joubert: "Adam is a fighter - I will remember what he did in the free program!"
March 19, 2020
By Titanilla Bőd
Photos © Joy Geurts, Mireille Geurts
As a skater he participated in thirteen European Championships and earned ten European medals, including three golds. As a coach, he is in his second Europeans but is already getting used to this new role. Brian Joubert had two students in Graz and he was talking about their potential and his coaching philosophy in this interview.
This is your second Europeans as a coach. How do you feel in this role?
I really like it. I like to be a coach. It is a chance for me to be part of this kind of big event. I'm very happy and proud. I did so many Europeans as a skater, but as a coach it is completely different, but I'm very happy about my students.
Can you explain how it is different?
When you are an athlete, you are on the ice, you know exactly how it's going to be. You feel it, you feel if you are comfortable or not, and you can fix it yourself. But when you are a coach, you have nothing to do [during the performance of the skater], you just have to watch. Sometimes it's very difficult, when you see your student doing badly, you have to find the good words to make him more confident. So it's not easy, but it's so interesting. I really enjoy it.
Your student, Adam Siao Him Fa didn't have a good short program in Graz. How did you feel about it during and after the program?
It is difficult for Adam, because my goal was for him to be in the top six. I'm sure it was possible, because in the free skate he skated good and he finished sixth in the free. So it was possible to be in the top five or top six. I was so disappointed for him, because he works a lot and what he did in the short program was not him. He still has to be mentally stronger, maybe I will do some exercise with him. But he is a fighter and that's what I will remember, what he did in the free program. When you have a very bad short program and you have to do the free next day, you don't sleep very well. But he was so strong, so confident. It makes me more confident for his future.
I talked with Adam after the free skate and he told me you calmed him down after this disastrous short program. What did you tell him?
It's just sport, and figure skating is so difficult, so I explained to him that everything can happen. Okay, we made some mistakes, because we are a team, he is not the only one, and we just have to fix it until the next competition. Of course we have no time to lose, but he is still young, he is learning. I just told him I still believe in him, even if he makes some mistakes.
In the free skating he was fighting in a way that it reminded me of the famous "Joubert-spirit". You were also a fighter as a competitor, never giving up.
Yes, we are quite similar. Every day in the practice he doesn't want to lose one second, “keep going, keep going”, and he never gives up, he always fights. Yes, he is a little bit like me.
Also that step sequence was very Joubert style…
(smiles) Yes, because he is like me, he doesn't like to do the spins, he likes to do the jumps and the steps.
During his skating I noticed that during some spins you were shaking your head as if you didn't like what you saw…
Especially in the free program the flying combo spin… He didn't do enough revolutions in the upright position, so he lost one point and he could have been in the top ten. (Adam missed 10th place by 0,86 points.) With a top ten placement there would have been two spots for next season but now France will have only one spot. At this kind of event you can't give away points to the other skaters. You have to take everything and go for plus GOE, especially in this +5 system.
Is it hard for you as a coach to count every point, paying attention to the smallest detail? Because when you were a skater you were probably not so much focused on these things.
As an athlete I was counting every time, but I was not so strategic. Sometimes my goal wasn't to earn a lot of points, just to do what I wanted to do. When for the strategy it was not good to do three or two quads, I didn't care, I wanted to do it. Even if I made a mistake. It was my philosophy. As a coach… (smiles) I changed a little bit.
But if your student was stubborn just like you and went against your strategy, you wouldn't be very happy, right?
What do you think about Adam's potential? What can he reach?
It depends on how next season will be. This season was quite difficult, because he was injured, but if he has no problems, I'm sure he can be in the top five, top three in the world. He just has to improve, because he is very shy, and sometimes he is not confident enough. So he needs to do this kind of competition, maybe do some shows to feel that he can do much more, especially for the components.
But as you mentioned next year only one French skater can come to the Europeans, so it will be a big fight at the Nationals, against Kevin Aymoz or maybe someone else…
That's the sport, that's life. We have to fight, we have to be the best. So next season Adam will have to do the GP series, do good competitions, and win the Nationals. He will fight for sure.
You also had a lady competitor at the Europeans, Lea Serna. What do you think about her and her potential?
She is amazing! For me it's more difficult to work with ladies. Sometimes there are so many questions, but I like that she works a lot. I'm sure that soon she will be able do triple Axel and quad toe. We will work on it after the season.
Everyone knows that you were a huge fan of quads. Now ladies are landing quads, too. Do you like this trend?
Of course! In figure skating there are no limits. When I see little girls doing quad Lutz, quad flip, it's amazing. It's amazing for our sport, for the audience. I fought a lot as a skater [for the quads] and now it has come true. So I'm happy.
But some people say there is not so much artistry in those quad-packed programs, they are not so complete…
Of course, they are just 15, 16 years old. You can imagine. They are young. But the people who say they don't have good components, those people should try quad Lutz, and we'll talk after that! They can not imagine [what it takes to land a quad]! When I see those ladies, they are beautiful to watch. Of course they can be better, but they are very young.
Do you still practice jumping?
Sometimes I can do double Axel, triple toe, triple Salchow, triple flip… But I don't want to. When I start to do it, I say to myself: “Why? You don't need it. Just be focused on your students.”
Aren't they sometimes asking you to show them the jumps?
The little ones. They are asking all the time. “Show us the double Axel! The double Axel!” Well, I can show sometimes.
You mentioned in earlier interviews that you have many different levels of skaters in your skating school. What do you prefer: working with the highest levels or with the little kids?
Both! High level is so interesting, but it is very difficult and takes a lot of energy. So sometimes it's very good to be with the kids who just want to skate for fun. You don't have to think about anything, you can just enjoy this moment with the little kid. I like to go to the very small competitions, even if it's not high level, I love seeing kids with a big smile.
Do you feel that you have influenced figure skating in France? You were world champion, multiple European champion, now you are a coach and you have a big skating school in Poitiers...
No, I don't think so. Figure skating is not on TV any more. In my time this sport was much more popular, now it's getting a little bit down. Some people come to my club just because I'm Brian Joubert, I was a world champion, and they believe their kid will be world champion, too. It's not so easy.
Do you pick the skaters, or if someone wants to train with you, do you take everybody?
I don't take adults, because I don't have enough ice time, but usually I take everybody. Even if the kids just want to learn how to skate, no competition, it's no problem.
Are you nervous when your students are competing?
I'm more nervous than when I was a skater. It's horrible. Watching my students going into a double Axel… just a double Axel… and I'm so tense! When you are on the ice, you don't think about anything, you just go.
Do you have more free time now, or are you more busy as a coach?
I have more free time during the day, but when I finish my practice I'm already thinking about the next one, and also about the practice that had just finished, what was good, what was bad, what we have to work on. Figure skating takes all my day in my head.
It's known that you have a lot of pets, how many exactly?
I have parrots, fifteen snakes, a lizard, a turtle, dogs, fish… They help me to forget figure skating. When I take care of them, spend time with them, my battery gets full again and I can come back on the ice.
Snakes are not very common pets...
I had my first snake six years ago. I like them because it's very interesting and difficult to take care of them. You really have to know what they are doing, you have to watch everything. When you see a dog, you can tell from its face if he feels good or bad. With the snakes it's different.
How can you tell if a snakes feels good or bad?
If he is okay, he moves, he eats. But if you try to touch him and he bites you, then maybe something is wrong. It's very interesting and strange.