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28 Feb 2010

First Olympic black pairs skaters, Vanessa James and Yannick Bonheur

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February 28, 2010 Category: Sports Posted by:

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Ever wonder how ice skaters find partners, not necessarily for romance, but to train together as dance or pairs skaters? Some are matched and trained early, spotted by ice skating coaches who realized their talent. Some, including Olympic skaters Vanessa James and Yannick Bonheur, use online partner searches to find potential pairs skating matches.


It seems that astute coaches aren’t all that bring talented skating duos together. Sometimes family members can serve as “matchmakers”. When it comes to potential Olympic pairs skaters like Vanessa James and Yannick Bonheur, they were brought together by a site called Ice Partners Search, helped along by an aunt who thought the two might hit it off as ice skating partners.


In fact, serendipity-and luck, seems to have played a large part in the lives of these two skaters. They’ve managed to take their ice skating skills all the way to the Olympics, in spite of some comments about how they dance differently than other skating pairs.


Not only are they the first all-black team to get this far – representing France in the Olympics games – but it is a remarkable accomplishment for a couple of skaters who only met in December of 2007. It can take far more than a few years for ice skating pairs dancers and competitors to learn how to merge their styles. Some never do and have to find new partners (thus the need for sites like ice partner search. To get as far as the Olympics in such a relatively short time is a near miracle.


So what happened after James and Bonheur met? When it became clear that the match was promising, they trained primarily in France during 2008 and 2009. Then, still seeking another coach to help them maintain Olympic standards for skaters and perhaps tweak their routine, they turned to a coach based in Indianapolis, Sergei Zaitsev. Sound confusing? When it comes to ice skating, it isn’t uncommon for skaters born in one country to represent another if they can up their chances of bringing home an Olympic medal. Many skaters go through several coaches, too.


To understand just how convoluted it can be to decide which country to represent and which coaches to use along the way to Olympic glory, consider this: Vanessa James was born in Canada. She had a British passport as well as a residence card for the United States. All she had to do was become a French citizen to represent France in the Olympics. She got the passport, although it was right down to the wire to get it, and the rest is history. As noted before, getting to the Olympics is already a first for all-black pairs skaters. So James and Bonheur have already made history.


Can James and Bonheur Win an Olympic Medal?

Winning an Olympics medal? It would be a bonus. At this point, the two are still working on their technique. But to have come so far is already a miracle of sorts. I’m not counting them out, having seen some amazing upsets during the Olympics. Nerves, the excitement of being in the Olympics and missing a crucial jump can propel those who seemed to have no chance to Olympic glory. Michelle Kwan, an experienced skater, was beaten by the very young and enthusiastic Tara Lipinski. When it comes to those Olympic medals, all bets are off. I’ll be watching Vanessa James and Yannick Bonheur eagerly. Even if they don’t get a medal this time around, they could be a very promising team of pairs skaters, worth watching for years to come.

Ed. Note: James and Bonheur placed 14th in the figure skating pairs competition after the printing of this article.

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