In the French Team for the Euros this year there was no place for the top skaters who were at Worlds. Also the French Federation decided to boycott the new team sprint and the 200 meter. We talked about that with Pascal Briand, coach of the French National Team.

Why didn’t the French skaters compete in the team sprint and 200 meter? First of all, there are international rules, made by the World Skate Federation, so we prefer that the distances here are the same distance as in this rule set. It’s good to have new distances but I think it should be proposed though World Skate and not directly at European level. That’s just why we didn’t race these distances. Actually the coaches from other countries said it was kind of a right decision.”

How did the skaters react? “For sure some skaters would like to race. But I think it’s better to have one position and make the sport more clear, having one rule set for all championships. It creates a bit of confusion to have many different rule sets.”

Why is that important? “I think it’s better for the sport, also for training. They only introduced the new distance not so long ago and the athletes have to prepare for it. We decided not to prepare for it, because maybe these distances are only raced once.”

So you just wanted to make a point? “It’s good to try something, but maybe an official championship is not the right place to try something. We let the European Federation know that we wouldn’t participate and for what reason. We also came up with a solution: instead of doing three marathons on the last day they could have done more categories together and then race the 100 meter in the morning. Now we will have three marathons, it will take a lot of time with small packs. It will show a less impressive image of the sport.”

Did you see any distances that you would like to introduce officially? “As a sprinter I like the 300 meter, I had the world record in the 300 meter a long time ago. So personally I’m sad not to have the 300 meter anymore. But I can understand it takes a lot of time to do it. Maybe it’s a solution to have only 2 skaters per country, or only one, so it doesn’t take that long.”

Would you have liked to skate the team sprint yourself? “Probably, but not without any preparation. But in a show it would have been quite cool.”

We thought it was quite spectacular… “Every race can be spectacular when it’s showed well.”

I have seen many distances since I skated, the problem is not in the distance, just my personal opinion, it’s more about how we show the event. If you show the 300 meter without any split time, without any speakers who make the ambiance it’s boring. If you display all the split times and the ranking it will be spectacular.” He compares it to ice skating, where people also look at the lap times, and they know the value of a good opening.

A word from the C.E.C 

Irmelin Otten, President of the C.E.C explained that the idea of the team sprint came after the relay on the road disappeared, same as the 300 meter at the track. The Federation wanted to bring back a sprint distance and a team discipline, the team sprint combines both. She also said that it was a great success.

It was introduced at the championship so it would have a big impact and have the support of a lot countries. This will also help when the C.E.C proposes this new discipline to World Skate.

Selection of the team for Euros 

Why was the team at Euros so different from the team at Worlds? “Sometimes we decide also to give more opportunity to different skaters. We have a chance to have a high national level, so if we want to make the level higher it’s also good to have more skaters participate in international events.”

Honorine Barrault was at both tournaments, she has to stay active to keep in shape for the Youth Olympics.

The team is still doing well here… “We have a very good national level. Sometimes the skaters who finish at 6th, 7th or 8th place at the national championships can potentially take a medal here. Not as much as the top ones, but they are already great skaters, they just need more experience, that’s what we try to give them.”

Were the top skaters disappointed that they couldn’t skate here? “Yes, I think they can be a bit disappointed. We did the same when I was racing also, 20 years ago. Sometimes we put kind of a B-team, and then I was also complaining I wanted to race more. Also it’s nice to have some better skaters to compete at national level, maybe once every four years it’s not a big deal to make a little sacrifice on one part to help the national level get better.”

Marine Lefeuvre wins bronze in the points-elimination raceQuentin Giraudeau with the silver medal in the elimination race
Hugo Morin is very happy with his silver medal in the elimination raceThe junior ladies relay team took 2nd place


Pictures: Hidde Muije