Golden Skate

Years of Hard Work Pay Off for France’s Dambier

As a late bloomer, Frederic Dambier is following in the footsteps of his favorite figure skater.

France’s Frederic Dambier has made quite an impression in the last two years after laboring in the shadow of Philippe Candeloro throughout the 1990s. At the age of 24, Dambier is not an overnight success. He has skated in seniors in France since 1995, where he finished tenth, only reaching the podium in 2001, where he finished second behind Stannick Jeanette. He repeated as silver medalist in 2002, when Gabriel Monnier took the title. But Dambier finished eighth at the 2001 European Championships and improved on that finish with a fifth in the 2002 Europeans in Lausanne. He skated a strong free skate, finishing behind only Alexei Yagudin and Alexander Abt, but a tenth place finish in the short kept him off the podium.

As a late bloomer, Dambier is following in the footsteps of his favorite skater. “There’s only one skater I really like,” he said. “That’s Paul Wylie. He was incredibly artistic and still achieved an excellent technical level. All this while he was an amateur and still when he was a pro! A very complete skater, a hard worker, who kept up his studies at the same time.”

His parents weren’t skaters, so Dambier started skating rather late, when he was about six or seven. “My neighbor took me to the rink for the first time at the ice rink of Joué les Tours. It is a small rink, only about 36 meters big,” he said. “I tried it, and I liked it! My younger brother started to skate soon after I started. He did some figure skating for 2-3 years, then he played ice hockey, but after a while he stopped.”

Dambier landed his first triple jump, the salchow, when he was 14, and soon mastered the other triples. The salchow remains his favorite jump. “I landed my first quadruple salchow at 19,” he continued. “I have also landed the quadruple toe a couple of times. This jump is a bit more difficult for me than the salchow, which is more consistent, but I’m working on it. During the training we had in China in June, I landed the quadruple flip for the first time.”

He mainly uses the triple Axel/triple toe combination in competition, but he is working on the quadruple salchow/triple toe loop. “Once after I started to learn the quad salchow, I even tried a quad salchow/quad toe. I felt great after the quad salchow so I tried to add the quad toe afterwards. I fell on the toe, but I was not far from landing it. I think we’ll see a quad-quad combo someday. If a skater manages to do all the quadruples, it will probably be Plushenko.”

Dambier landed the quad salchow in both the qualifying round and the free skate at the 2002 Europeans. He may have two quads in his long program next season. “If not, I’ll have two triple Axels and a quad,” he said. “I don’t really want to constantly try harder jumps, I prefer to have a good technical ability.”

During the season, Dambier trains about 18 hours a week at Champigny, increasing to 28 hours a week in the summer. “My current coaches are Annick Gailhaguet and Pierre Trente, as well as Diane Scotnicka and Li Ping,” he stated. “They have been my coaches for six years. Mustapha Aakik, who deals with our physical preparation, is also part of the team.” Dambier and the Champigny coaching staff worked in China last summer to perfect his jumping technique.

Dambier likes to have a lot of input into the selection of music and choreography of his programs. It always comes from the heart,” he said. “For example, the music for my short program last year came from a program of Grishuk and Platov. When I first heard it I liked it a lot, but I didn’t really think that I would use it one day. Finally the idea developed in my mind. I also listen to a lot of music before finding the right piece. But choosing music for a program is the decision of the whole team.”

This season, the Frenchman is using “The Last Temptation of Christ” by Peter Gabriel for the short program, and a combination of “Samson and Delilah” by Camille Saint-Saens and Puccini’s “La Boheme” for the long. “Last year my programs were choreographed by Olga Leonovitch. This year Shanti Rushpaul made the choreography of my long program,” he noted. “I usually take the framework produced by the choreographer and then adapt it to my own liking. I like to use powerful, dramatic music for exhibition, as well as for a competition program. I encourage myself to use other styles of music, so sometimes I skate to faster pieces. I really like French music: Jacques Brel, Charles Aznavour -mainly for the lyrics. In fact, I have already used this kind of music in my exhibition programs.”

Dambier hopes to continue to skate for a few more years and is not overly concerned about his results. “I want to enjoy myself above all,” he said. “Of course when I achieve a good result, it’s really satisfactory. It’s a nice reward. At the moment I cannot see into the future so I cannot really say that in 4-5 years I’ll stop. I think I will be a sports teacher; I already have the qualifications for that. If not, maybe a position in the federation, or coach.”

He just completed his three years of training as a sports teacher a year ago and received his diploma, freeing up some time for relaxation. “Until one year ago I had no free time,” he related. “Days used to start with a practice session at the rink of Champigny at about 7 AM, and then most of the day was dedicated to my studies. At the end of the day I used to go back to the rink for another practice, before going home at 8 PM. I played volleyball and tennis, but I didn’t have a lot of time for that. During the summer I practiced sports a bit more, between ice skating practice sessions.”

“Now I have a bit more free time, he continued. “I like to go to the movies, to restaurants, spend an evening with my friends, relax.” He enjoys powerful and moving movies, like “Schindler’s List”, “Philadelphia”, and “The Green Mile” and reads science fiction and Stephen King books like “Pet Cemetery” and “The Shining”.

“I love to travel, even though up until now it’s been mainly for skating rather than for holidays. My best memories are from Australia where I participated in Junior Worlds, and more especially Brisbane. I like Canada too, especially Quebec which is 100 percent natural. I had the most striking memories in Slovakia and Estonia. It was also a great privilege to go to North Korea. The country is very close and cut from the rest of the world. Among the places I’ve never been but would like to go are Africa, or some sun drenched islands, like Tahiti. Usually for holidays, I like to rest at my home or I go in Bretagne, in Normandie.” He finished 11th at his first Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Note: Translation by Noel Benjamin