Golden Skate

Romania’s Gheorghe Chiper Goes His Own Way

Gheorghe Chiper is Romania’s most accomplished figure skater. The five-time national men’s champion finished ninth at this year’s European Championships, the country’s highest finish. He was 15th at the 2001 World Championships and 23rd at the 2002 Olympic Games.

In 2002, he also won Crystal Skate and the Golden Spin of Zagreb, and finished second at the Finlandia Trophy.

Chiper began skating when he was four. “It was fate to follow the tradition of my family,” Chiper said. “My sister was skating and my parents brought me to the rink. At first, I wanted to play hockey but I did well in skating. When I was 13, I tried pairs, but then I made Junior Worlds and decided to concentrate on singles. In pairs, you suffer if your partner makes a mistake. As an individual, you get what you deserve.”

Chiper had his first success with a triple jump at 13, when he landed a triple salchow and a triple toe loop at the same practice session. “I remember my first triple Axel,” he continued. “It came in the morning after Junior Worlds in Korea in 1996 and no one was there. I started doing quads a few years ago and am working on the quad toe quite regularly, but I try to focus less on the jumps and more on the quality of my programs.” In the short, Chiper does a triple Axel/triple toe, adding a triple lutz/double Axel in the long. “Sometimes I may try a quad or a triple/triple combination in the long,” he added.

Chiper realized a dream by skating in the 2002 Olympics. “The result was not what I wanted but it was a great experience, he said. “Our whole team went to the opening and closing ceremonies together and we were away from home for a month. It was a difficult period for me since I had the flu after Europeans and then had the pressure of the Olympics. I wasn’t practicing in the normal way and I wasn’t 100 percent mentally or physically. But I decided to live the moment and not think too far away. Afterwards, I didn’t go to Worlds because I needed time for myself to think about the future.”

“I’m doing my own thing now,” he continued. “I’m enjoying what I do and taking the results as they come. There’s no reason to change my perspective.” Chiper only practices for about 15 hours a week and does little off ice work. “I’m more mentally relaxed in training now,” he said. “If you go on the ice too much, it becomes too routine. Now each time I go on the ice, it’s fun. I only do really necessary things off ice. I was doing too much. Now I’m finding a compromise in between.”

Chiper’s wife, Sandra Schar, is his coach and choreographer. They met at a camp in Switzerland when she was there as a choreographer and have been married three years. “Sandra does the choreography, but with ideas from me that we work into the program, “he said. “My wife found the long program music. I wasn’t crazy about it, but she thought it would be right for me. It took me some time to feel the music, but now I like it.” He is using a tango from “El Mostro” soundtrack for his short program and “The Groove Maker” by Michel Besson and “Triangle” and “Saint Luce” by Lydie Auvray for the long.

Chiper has finished university studies in physical education and sport in Romania, but said, “There’s always something to learn. I’m always reading something that I want to find out about. I’m didactic. I don’t have a preference for just one thing. If I find something interesting for myself, I read it.” He speaks seven languages including English, French, Italian, Dutch, Hungarian, and Romanian. “You have to exercise the languages to keep them,” he said. The couple is teaching their daughter, Flora, both German and Romanian.

To relax, Chiper said, “Being with my daughter is the biggest part of my life. He takes lots of time and has already been on the ice to play.” She also gets all of the toys he receives after he skates. Chiper used to be involved in a lot of sports including soccer, volleyball, and skiing but not now. He uses his computer a lot for email and research. “You can find everything there,” he said. “Science and news, travel information, anything.” He also does his own web site. Usually, he just stays home with his family and watches television or videos. For holidays, they usually go to Romania, although he said, “It’s nice to go to a warm place in the winter.”

Chiper plans to continue skating as long as he enjoys it. He is helping his wife coach now in Kusnacht in Switzerland and plans to continue. “We have a good future together there,” he said.