One of the first international synchro seminars since the start of the pandemic


Almost 70 skaters and coaches from five different countries (Belgium, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland and France) participated in the seminar.

Postponed last year because of the worldwide Covid situation, the international seminar for Novices took place in Dunkirk, France, a few days ago. Organized by the French Federation (FFSG) and validated by the ISU, it could be held every year.

Ratified by the International Skating Union (ISU), the Novices seminar was first scheduled in June 2020 in Wasquehal, in northern France. It is finally even higher on the map, on the French coast, in Dunkirk, that the development project was able to take place a few days ago.

Program' components with Natacha Pontonnier

The goal of the seminar was to improve the level of novice skaters and their coaches. The novice division is indeed a very important period for athletes preparing for the junior and senior levels.

Organized by the FFSG, the international seminar brought together a total of 25 coaches and 46 skaters from five different countries (Belgium, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland and France). "At the start we were supposed to have 52 skaters, 30 coaches and 7 nations. With the pandemic, two countries withdrew and some coaches came alone", explained Catherine Glaise, manager of the French synchro teams since 2017. This former ice dancer and high level coach in this discipline has been working within the FFSG since 2006 as a state executive at the Ministry of Sports.

"We got there but it was very complicated"
The "sanitary" parameter was one of the biggest challenges in the organization of this international seminar. "We got there, but it was very complicated," said Catherine Glaise, former director for ice dance and head of the French junior teams in this discipline.

The participants were not the only ones who got problems with the travel restrictions. "We realized that a year later, the pandemic was still there and that access to borders had hardened! The coach Marylin Langlois (editor's note: coach of Les Suprêmes in Montreal, Canada), could no longer come. Her replacement Daria Kobazeva saw her visa refused! We were lucky that Andrea [Gilardi] was available and agreed to come to our seminar ", explained Catherine Glaise.

Off ice with Catherine Papadakis. She is the mother of the French ice dancer Gabriella Papadakis.

While the world of sport has been hit hard by the pandemic, the organization of this international seminar followed a strict health protocol which was validated beforehand by all the participants.

“First of all, we all had a negative Covid test less than 48 hours before the opening of the seminar. Then, we all wore the mask except the skaters when they were on the ice or the ground. Coaches who had to be in double rooms were all accommodated alone. The skaters who were to be divided into rooms of four were all in double rooms. Finally, everyone respected the distance during these four days," said Catherine Glaise. She is delighted that no case of Covid has been reported.

Among the main speakers, the participants learned from Andrea Gilardi, world-renowned expert in synchronized skating and head coach of the Hot Shivers teams in Italy. Catherine Glaise: "Andrea passed on her expertise with great dynamism, precision and generosity. The French Federation is very grateful to him."

Catherine Papadakis has also adapted her expertise in ice dance to synchro practice (twizzles, edges, unison, etc.); Mehdi Bouzzine, Pair Skating coach, shared his expertise in solo pirouettes, couples and spirals. Finally, Nicolas Bazin, actor, has set up expressive workshops for skaters and courses for coaches exclusively focused on team management.

"This complementarity of the experts and the diversity of the workshops made it possible to set up a very complete seminar," said Catherine Glaise.

Working on edges with Andrea Gilardi

Will this meeting become essential?
"The advantage of this first experience is that the FFSG has proven that it can organize a quality event with an international dimension. Dunkirk has a double track. Next year we could use both tracks and allow more skaters and coaches to participate."

"The FFSG would like this event to be repeated every year, but it does not depend only on us," explained Catherine Glaise. She has long been committed to improving the sliding qualities of French figure skaters by raising the score of the components in the programs.

The seminar's goal was also to develop exchanges between all coaches from different clubs and countries.

Will the seminar be back in 2022? No one knows yet, but novice coaches and skaters may keep that in mind for next year.

Catherine Glaise: "There is no seminar for this audience (Novice) at the international level. The FFSG has found it interesting, especially after the pandemic and months of stoppage, to take action towards these young skaters. My goal is to work with everyone to help this amazing discipline to structure itself and to perform."