A very complicated situation for the French teams


The juniors of Team Jeanne d'Arc in their free program last season. (Credits: S.J. Photos - 2020)

The French synchronized skating teams had to stop their ice training at the end of October (due to the Covid pandemic). Only athletes registered on the ministerial lists are currently authorized to train in the country. Synchro athletes regret this decision and ask for more recognition.

Following a Government decision, the French teams have now been removed from the ice for three weeks.

"The second lockdown in France has established strict rules for the practice of sports. Only athletes registered on the ministerial lists (i.e., high-level athletes) are authorized to practice. Unfortunately, this is not the case of our discipline, synchronized skating not being represented at the Olympic Games. We cannot, therefore, skate since October 30," explains Clara Morisse, co-captain of the Jeanne d'Arc Junior team in Rouen in northern France.

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The team, made up this year of 21 skaters from different French clubs and skating disciplines, saw its training program deteriorate already at the end of September, well before the Government's announcement.

A prefectural decree (Seine-Maritime) has indeed stopped the team's practices by establishing a curfew and very restrictive measures regarding the practice of sports in general. During this period, only minors were allowed to train. This led to the total cessation of the ice lessons for the seven major skaters, which means that only a third of the team could skate.

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The 2021 Worlds in the country
"It's a real frustration as an athlete not being able to practice, not being able to train to prepare for competitions. I miss the 'physical' contact with the other team members even if we try to keep a link by organizing virtual meetings several times a week (2 sessions of physical training + 1 in classical dance + 1 in yoga). This is better than nothing, and it is important to maintain a link," says Clara Morisse, who is almost 18 years old.

For the Jeanne d'Arc Junior team, it is therefore impossible to train normally. The team, which hopes to be able to participate in competitions this season, is no longer keen to be able to return to the ice rink. However, many meetings (regional and national competitions) have already been canceled, like the Elite French championships, which were to take place between December 17 and 22 in Vaujany.

“Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the health situation will get better to allow the organization in the best conditions of the World Junior Championships in Lyon in March 2021,” says Clara Morisse. French Junior Champion for five years, the Jeanne d'Arc team participated in the Junior Worlds for three years in a row (2017 to 2019) but had to give up the 2020 edition, which was held in Nottingham due to the health situation. 

The Team Jeanne d'Arc in its short program. (Credits: Stéphane Heude - 2020)

Trained by three coaches (Anne-Sophie Druet-Avisse, Christelle Peltier, and Clara Levieux) and several experts (PPG, Yoga, classical dance, theater, and mental trainer), the Rouen team was already ready for the Masters at the beginning of October. However, bad luck, the team had to withdraw at the end of the long program's official training.

"A suspicion of a Covid case was declared. We had to hit the road again at the end of the morning, without waiting for the resumption of competition. Our teammate's test was negative, but we remained confined for several days awaiting the result of all the tests made by the team and the staff."

According to Clara Morisse, co-captain of the team with Alizée Sachet, the programs were ready in September even if they still required precision and technical work. "We have chosen to keep our long program from last year (basketball theme), not having been able to present it at the World Championships in Nottingham. Regarding the short program, we have kept the same structure as last year while changing theme and music. "

"In France, synchronized skating suffers from a real lack of recognition"
Training extremely hard (synchro practice every morning for a total of 7h30 on the ice) with individual skating training alongside Rouen's athletes, like their teammates elsewhere in France, have difficulty living this full stop of their training.

"In France, synchronized skating suffers from a real lack of recognition, at the institutional level but also on the part of the so-called 'classic' media. We have been fighting for many years for synchro to be recognized in France and abroad, which would allow us to finally be recognized as 'top athletes', with all the implications that this entails," concludes Clara Morisse.

The Jeanne d'Arc team, like the other ISU junior teams and the Zulus (also away from the ice for three weeks), a real change of perspective must now take place. The skaters are now waiting for the government's next announcements to see more clearly about the coming weeks.