Lausanne, Switzerland

#FigureSkating      #UpAgain

Figure Skating is a sport that combines athletic skills with art like no other. Skaters perform elements of highest difficulty and at the same time interpret the music and dance. The ability to bring across emotions plays, in addition to all technical skills, a key role for success. Kevin Aymoz of France is one of those skaters who has that package. Who does not remember his tears of joy when winning the bronze medal as the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in 2019? While emotions are important, they need to remain under control. The COVID-19 pandemic demanded a lot from everyone in the world as our normal life was interrupted and changed significantly for most people. Kevin, who is very close to his coach Silvia Fontana (ITA), as well had to balance his emotions and motivation in these tough times when he was unable to return to his training base in Florida.

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Kevin Aymoz (FRA) at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

“The season was an emotional elevator,” the 23-year-old said. “The whole season I didn’t know what was going to happen. When I left Florida in April 2020, I said goodbye to my coaches as if I would come back after three weeks of vacation – ‘see you soon’.”

He has not been back since. Like most other Skaters, Aymoz sat at home first during lockdown and then was unable to travel outside France. He tried to make the best out of it. “It went actually very well, because I hadn’t seen my family in a long time and it also allowed me to get some things done in France like going back to university, do some important things,” the Frenchman recalled. “I tried to find the most positive solution and try to remain positive as much as I could.”

It was not always that easy. “It (the situation) has taught me a lot of things,” Kevin shared. “I hate to be by myself and alone with my thoughts, but I was forced to do that for two months and I had nothing to do. Thanks to that I have learned a bit more about myself. I had more time with my family, I bought a car, I did things that are important in life. However, the lost time was a bit annoying, but I can’t complain as my family and my friends are all fine.”

When the French Federation offered their elite Skaters on-ice training in Courchevel, Aymoz reconnected with Francoise Bonnard, who had coached him for more than 15 years before he relocated to the USA to work with Fontana and John Zimmerman (USA). “I told her I just need someone to watch me, not to make major corrections, but to be at the boards with me. I can train myself for some time,” the four-time French Champion noted.

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Kevin Aymoz (FRA) at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

However, he was not able to go back to Florida and started to build programs. While Kevin is actively involved in creating the choreography of his routines, he still needs the help of professional coaches and choreographers. “I realized that it is very hard to build programs remotely with the coaches on the phone,” the Skater said. He decided to do his new Short Program “Indigène” by Maxime Rodriguez himself. “It was very complicated. I needed two months to really get into it to find ideas, because I think I am too strict with myself. When my coaches do the programs, they give me plenty of ideas and I include them into the program but doing it myself, I just wanted to do the very best program,” he explained.

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Kevin Aymoz (FRA) at the ISU World Team Trophy 2021©International Skating Union (ISU)

The program in the end came out very well and was a success at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships and the ISU World Team Trophy. Aymoz created a new Free Skating as well, but felt it did not work as well and eventually returned to his previous program to “Lighthouse” by Patrick Watson.

The “emotional elevator” continued all season – the athlete prepared for a competition – then it was postponed or cancelled and once he had to withdraw as he tested positive on Covid-19. Finally, the French National Championships were rescheduled for February, and Aymoz suffered an injury to his adductors. “It was my first injury during my career. I could not even walk. I had to take a break and I didn’t skate for a week. I got back on to the ice Monday and the championship was Thursday and Friday.”

He did not consider to withdraw as he felt it was important to try to defend his title in the pre-Olympic year. He did it, won his fourth National title and reveals an interesting psychological detail. “I was afraid that my injury would hinder me to be successful and this actually allowed me to be successful, because I had confidence in my jumps. I knew I would do it, because I wanted to do it. I had an easier technical content, but I was able to skate without mistakes.”

Aymoz then prepared for the ISU World Figure Skating Championships, but kept in mind that it could be canceled at any time. “Until the last day before getting on the plane I was afraid that it was going to be canceled,” he said. “My goal was really to go there and assure my spot (for the Olympic Games). I told myself it is your moment, you will work, you will get into the top ten and you open the chance for two Olympic spots.”

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Kevin Aymoz (FRA) at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2021©International Skating Union (ISU)

Kevin did exactly that by finishing in ninth place, giving the French men the option to earn a second Olympic berth at the Olympic qualifying event Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf in September. He also felt that he came closer to the very best Skaters of the world than ever before. “They are not so far ahead, I think there are about 40 points between me and the podium (34.66 to be exact, Ed.) that is not very, very, very, very far and that really motivates me to push myself to look at the Games in another way. Now I don’t just want to participate at the Games anymore. I want to go there and do my job, perform and try to get as close as possible to the podium.”

In order to realize his goals, Aymoz is looking for something new and found Mehdi Kerkouche, a French dancer and choreographer. “He is totally outside the world of Figure Skating. The guys are putting in the technical content and we’ve been battling to include the quads, the artistry was going down and now maybe we need some more artistry,” the Skater pointed out. “I wanted to find something very different that will stand out in the Olympic year.”

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Kevin Aymoz (FRA) at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2021©International Skating Union (ISU)

For now, Kevin continues to work online with his U.S. based coaches. “I’ve worked with them every day by video, they got up at three in the morning in the USA, because my practices in France are early,” he shared. The Frenchman hopes to be able to return to the USA sooner than later. “Maybe Silvia will be able to come for a few days to France, and even it is only one day, I would be so happy. I hope that I can be with them (coaches) again, because I need them for my skating. Moreover, I like my coaches a lot, because they have helped me a lot in my personal life. I need them.”

The French Champion is thinking about keeping the Short Program for the Olympic season, unless he finds something that he likes even better. In any case, he wants to change the costume and to work on the choreography. He will get a new Free Skating and work with Kerkouche on that.