Lausanne, Switzerland
 
 
Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (FRA) WFSC 2018©International Skating Union (ISU) 936677172
Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (FRA) at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

When French Pair skaters Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres claimed their first medal at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2018 last March, a dream had come true for them. This bronze medal marked the end of a roller coaster season with highs and lows for the popular French team – and it motivated them to continue, since they had thought of retiring from competing after the Olympic season. It turned out to be the right decision.

“I think the end of the season helped us to make the decision, because we were really unsure,” Vanessa said. “But after getting third at Worlds I think it really clicked that we’re capable of doing great things. We’ll have to continue, to be focused and try to reinvent ourselves every time, try to be unique and not settle for what we’ve been doing the last two years, trying to find something that is similar to the style that we’ve been doing and that works for us but not getting bored. We don’t want to have only one style. I think that’s what is going to keep us motivated. We basically decided after Worlds that it would be a shame for us to stop,” she continued.

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (FRA) GPFSF Gala 2018©International Skating Union (ISU) 1070870506

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (FRA) at the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final Gala 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

The World bronze medalists were off to a good start in the post-Olympic season, winning each event they entered so far – the Challenger competition Autumn Classic in Canada, their two Grand Prix Skate Canada and Internationaux de France, the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final (in which they competed for the first time) and their Nationals. “I think it’s a great beginning of the season for us, we never had these results before,” Morgan pointed out. “We’ve been pretty consistent since the beginning of the season, because I think we’ve been really focusing on ourselves and on what we need to do. We know, we still have very strong competitors, Russian competitors and Chinese competitors. I think what we just did was stay concentrated and focused on the details, getting cleaner performance on our technique and fluidity,” James explained.

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (FRA) GPFS FRA 2018©International Skating Union (ISU) 1064889502

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (FRA) at the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Internationaux de France in Grenoble (FRA) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

Their programs this season turned out to be very successful. In the Short Program, the French Champions are skating to “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan and for the Free Skating, the picked “Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak, performed by Ursine Vulpine ft. Annaca and “The Last Feeling” by Maxime Rodriguez. They also chose new choreographers to work with: their teammate and three-time World Ice Dance Champion Guillaume Cizeron choreographed the Short Program and 2014 Olympic Ice Dance Champion Charlie White mounted the Free Skating with them.

“Guillaume was very professional with us and he gave everything he had for us,” Cipres shared. “He was ready to work with us. Everything was set in his mind before he came and then we just had to work to be as good as he is. That’s a lot of work. With Charlie I think it was a completely different work, but he is an amazing person. We had a really good connection,” he added.

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (FRA) GPFS FRA 2018©International Skating Union (ISU) 1064620716

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (FRA) at the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Internationaux de France (FRA) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

“It was nice working with both of them, being Olympic Champion and vice Olympic Champion, they are very modest and humble and very professional,” Vanessa agreed. “They’re young coaches, they still know how we feel. They work with partners, so they know how to calm him down or work with me and then with him and explain things. Guillaume was very professional, very impressive, because as Morgan said, he came with the music cut already. He had the plan of our program content. He had timed our elements from last year, so he knew that the spin will take 20 seconds, that steps will take this amount of time. Charlie is a great guy, too. He has a lot of energy, he is very positive, makes us feel good. They have completely different styles, which is what we wanted, because the short and the long are completely different styles and it does work perfectly,” she continued.

The 2017 European bronze medalists liked the challenge to work with new and rather inexperienced choreographers. “At some point, you have to take risks, right? We were getting a little bit too comfortable with the choreography that we’ve been having, which was amazing, John Kerr did a great job. We just wanted to get some new, fresh ideas, which was important to us, because we don’t want to stay in the same box. We want to still stay true to our style, but we want to evolve, and I think that’s what Guillaume and Charlie did,” James pointed out.

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (FRA) and coach John Zimmerman WFSC 2018©International Skating Union (ISU) 936665874

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (FRA) and coach John Zimmerman at the World Figure Skating Championships 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

Since the beginning of the season, the skaters and their coaches John Zimmerman and Silvia Fontana have been fine-tuning the programs and working on many details and they got positive feedback. “We got lots of compliments on especially the long program. I think the short program is going to be just as strong, we just need a little bit more mileage on it, because the transitions are completely different than what we're used to. Also, in the short program, everything is so fast, we have no room to be slower or for error, because everything is choreographed on the music,” Vanessa noted.

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (FRA) GPFS FRA 2017©International Skating Union (ISU) 875871728

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (FRA) at the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Internationaux de France (FRA) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

The team made errors in the Short Program at the Grand Prix Final in Vancouver in December for example, but then they put out a great Free Skating to overtake three other couples and to claim the title. James/Cipres are the first French Pair to win gold at the ISU Grand Prix Final and only the second French Pairs team to make the Final at all. The only other French Pair to qualify were Sarah Abitbol/Stephane Bernadis, who competed four times in the Final and claimed the silver medal in 1999.

Sarah Abitobol and Stephane Bernadis (FRA) 1998©AFP 51640136

Sarah Abitobol and Stephane Bernadis (FRA) 1998©AFP

“Winning the Grand Prix Final has not really boosted our confidence. We have been taking each competition the same way each time, whether we win or lose. We just want to do our best and show our improvements each competition. We trust that our competitors will come back stronger, so we are aiming to do the same,” Vanessa pointed out.

 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 

New programs in progress

A post shared by Morgan Cipres (@morgan2477) on

Following the French National Championships James/Cipres took some much needed time off to rest their minds and bodies after competing three times in about four weeks and performing in shows in France. The skaters spent Christmas with their families and had a few days off during the New Year holidays.

 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 

Enjoy your life . @vanessa_james_sk8

A post shared by Morgan Cipres (@morgan2477) on

Meanwhile, the pair have returned to their training base in Florida to prepare for the upcoming ISU European Figure Skating Championships 2019 in Minsk (BLR). “We had to get back to work quickly after the holidays. We have made a few adjustments mainly to our short program and cleaned up a few tiny transitions in the long,” Vanessa shared. “During our four days of shows in France we were able to make some nice changes in our short with Guillaume. The program has more flow and speed,” she added.

In Minsk, James/Cipres will face two-time and defending European Champions Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS), among others, but they enter as medal contenders and have the chance to win the second European title in Pair Skating for France in history after Andrée Brunet/Pierre Brunet in 1932.

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (FRA) at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships 2018©International Skating Union (ISU) 906679426 (1)

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (FRA) at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

“Our mindset is to go into Europeans with the same long we have been skating all season with a few cleaner transitions and a stronger short. Our best result is bronze we have no title to defend. We have no pressure, only to do better than last year’s results and to skate our best short of this season,” Vanessa said.