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French Funny Man

by Barry Mittan
Barry Mittan

French figure skater Alban Preaubert, 22, performs his long program at the 2007 World Figure Skating Championships.

France’s Alban Preaubert does not skate a typical men’s program. He’s always doing something unusual like former French competitor Laurent Tobel, another tall lanky skater. In last season’s short program, Preaubert ran away from a swarm of bees. In his long, he hopped about like Mike Myers in an Austin Powers movie and mugs for the audience. “I like to do fun and entertaining programs,” he said. “I don’t like to do classical very much.”

Nikolai Morozov choreographed both of Preaubert’s 2006-07 programs. He used Night on the Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky and Buzzy Bee by Robert Wells and his Orchestra for the short program, in which he portrayed a man being chased by bees. In his long program, Preaubert used a variety of music from the soundtracks of Mike Hammer, Swing Kids, and The Mask as well as music from the Bob Fosse show.

“I used the short program the previous season,” Preaubert said. “Nikolai showed it to me and asked if I liked it. I was thinking it would be fun. The long program was new. Usually I change both programs, but I really liked the short program so I kept it for a second year. Next year, maybe I will have to change my style and do a classical program.”

Preaubert does a number of show numbers, which he choreographs with his coach, Annick Dumont. Three of his favorites which he performed during the 2006-07 season were Joe Cocker’s You Are So Beautiful, Brice de Nice from a French movie soundtrack, and a techno remix of Shirley Bassey’s If You Go Away.

But just because he is entertaining, that doesn’t mean he can’t challenge for the podium in every competition. The 2004 French junior man’s champion placed in the top ten three times at Junior Worlds, winning the bronze medal in 2003. He finished fourth at the 2007 Grand Prix Final, sixth at the European Championships the past two seasons, eighth at the 2006 World Figure Skating Championships and 11th at 2007 Worlds. Last season, he won his first two Grand Prix medals – a silver at Trophee Eric Bompard and a bronze at Skate America. He finished third at French Nationals in senior men in 2006, but had to withdraw from the 2007 championships due to a back injury.

The Grenoble native comes from a family of doctors, not skaters. But his father was a skier and when Preaubert couldn’t ski very well, he decided to take Alban to the rink to try skating. “My father wanted me to try skating to improve my balance,” he stated. “I was six years old. I landed my first triple jumps when I was ten or eleven, the salchow and the loop. The loop is my favorite. I landed my triple Axel just before I turned 16.”

Preaubert has an impressive arsenal of jumps that he uses in his programs. Last season, he used a triple flip-triple toe combination in his short along with a triple Axel and triple lutz. His long program included: a triple Axel-double toeloop-double loop, a triple flip-triple toeloop combination, a double Axel-double toeloop combination, and a triple Axel, Lutz, Salchow, and loop.

“I landed my first quad toe two years ago,” said the Frenchman. “I’ve landed the quad salchow and quad loop in training although the quad loop was not perfect. I’ve been working on them this summer.”

The 22-year-old trains with a team of coaches headed by Dumont. The team includes Pierre Trente, Thierry Gasc, and Alain Fusco. Preaubert has worked with the team since September 2005. “It’s a very good group of coaches,” Preaubert said. “Each of them helps me with different things. And sometimes Frederic Dambier comes and helps me with some advice.” He works on ice for three hours a day, five days a week and adds another hour of off ice training.

Preaubert is in his fourth year of studies at a five-year business school. “I plan to create a newspaper for sports or organize sporting events when I am done skating,” he said. “For now, I just hope to skate well in every competition and do better than last year. My aim is to go to Vancouver for the Winter Olympics and compete well there. I also hope to get a medal at Europeans and Worlds. I know I can do it, maybe this next season. I’d also like to go to the Grand Prix Final again.”

To relax, Preaubert said, “I like to go out and do common things with friends. I like to watch movies and listen to hip-hop and pop music. I played the piano when I was young. Now I play the guitar. I play tennis and I swim every week. Sometimes I play golf. I like to do every kind of sport.” Preaubert was involved in a lot of other sports when he was younger. “I took judo lessons for three years and got a red belt,” he stated. “I played forward on a basketball team in a local league for three years and scored as many as 28 points.”

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