Philippe Maitrot (ISU): "If it has to be virtual, let’s do it!"


Junost - RUS (Credits: Roy Ng Photography - 2018)

Following the decision to cancel the Junior Synchronized Skating World Championships 2021, the president of the ISU technical committee Philippe Maitrot reacts.

First, how are you coping with this pandemic? 

I think like everyone in the world, trying to keep my family safe. But I miss tremendously the contact and the humanity. Since March, like all activities have been stopped or diminished in our current life, I have been occupied and working for synchronized skating (SyS) at home.

Are you missing synchro events? 

Yes for sure, I miss watching great performances, amazing skating, and meeting skating friends.

The 2021 Junior World Championships planned in Lyon, France, have been cancelled by the ISU. What is your reaction? 

I am sad for the teams and their coaches, but I try to be realistic, and I think it was the best solution. Right now teams are struggling to be on the ice, to practice and even sometimes for the ones that are able to practice, they aren't all allowed at the same time because there is a limited number of skaters on the ice, (4/10/12), or they can not be attached. 

Our sport is totally different from the other ISU sports which are individual or in couples. Some teams haven’t practised since October (some teams even before) so when you think that Worlds for all disciplines are at the end of a season and athletes must be at their peak, this is right now not the case. It will be quite difficult for most of the teams to reach the same level as the previous seasons.

With the lack of practice opportunities, and many of the competitions cancelled throughout the season (13 out 16 for the moment), arriving at a World Championships with no preparation can be unsafe for our athletes. 

What about the 2021 Senior Worlds? 

I really do not know if Worlds will happen. The ISU is working on it and will decide if it is possible to hold it or not.

The first virtual synchro competitions took place recently. What is your opinion about this?

I was part of the first virtual event as Official, which was organized by the Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club in the USA, and it was a really big success. This competition had different parts; one of them was the Best elements event; the other part was the event for SP and FS, with separate results.

Teams from Canada, Australia, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and the United States took part in it. I think it is really important to provide for athletes a goal, a point to reach. Even if it is not the same atmosphere and you do not feel these competitive vibrations, it is really important and vital for the athletes to show some elements still and/or their programs.

Is the ISU planning to organize such virtual competitions? If yes, how?

As the business travel is really impacted worldwide, with quarantine, restriction, visa obtention suspended, the SySTC and I need to keep the Athletes working for something, for a goal and if it has to be virtual, let’s do it.

We created the Evaluation Element Online, in which we could involve all SYS community. We just finished the 1st session, which was a big success, and I can tell you that we are organizing a second one for 2021. We had 48 teams participating, and we could involve in the evaluation, 85 of our Officials.

We had individual debriefings with the all 48 Teams for 30 min, debriefing with all Officials and it was really good to see the SYS community unified and happy to be together.

More virtual events will be provided to the Teams, one will take place next week in Poland, and after the holidays, another one in the USA. I know that more virtual events will come in 2021, and it is a good thing.

I can say that we are also working conjointly with Nathalie Pechalat, President of the French Ice Sports Federation on organizing something for the Junior teams who were supposed to compete in France in March. 

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