France’s Vanessa Gusmeroli used to be better known as a water skier than as a figure skater. The 23-year-old skater explained, “My parents have a passion for water skiing. My dad is a water skiing instructor at a friend’s Swiss Ski School in Clermont in Florida in the summer. He always wanted me to be a water skiing champion. When I was little, they took me two or three times a year to Florida for vacations and I learned to water ski when I was three. During the winter, it wasn’t possible to ski in Annecy, so my mother suggested that I try skating because it would be helpful to my water skiing. So when I was 7, I started to skate in Annecy, and very quickly my coach found me talented. He wanted me to practice more and more and I had a lot of fun doing it. So I was skating during the winter and water skiing during the summer.”
Vanessa continued “I won national titles at every level in water skiing and figure skating as well as the junior European championships in water skiing. I was very happy to do both sports. But at 14, the federations of figure skating and water skiing asked me to choose one sport because for them it didn’t seem realistic to reach a high level in two sports. So I chose skating because it was more interesting for my future. It was a big disappointment for my father.”
“So I didn’t practice and didn’t do any competitions in water skiing to consecrate myself to skating. This was a mistake because at the beginning of the season, I was injured and I didn’t go to my first World Junior Championships. So I decided to take up water skiing again and just do the figures and continue skating. Like this, I continued to win titles in both sports.”
Gusmeroli’s favorite events in water skiing were the European Championships in 1997 and the French Open in 1995, both of which she won. She stopped doing the slalom and ski jumping in 1992. Vanessa’s parents own a private water skiing school near Albertville and plan to build a water leisure park and water skiing competition facility. Vanessa plans to attend the university for a degree in journalism, but also hopes to teach water skiing and skating.
Gusmeroli has won the French Nationals for the last three years, after two silvers and a bronze in the preceding three years. She has also skated well at Trophee Lalique on the Grand Prix circuit, winning three bronzes over the years. Gusmeroli was a surprising third at the 1997 World Championships, narrowly edging defending bronze medalist Irina Slutskaya, and has finished in the top ten at Worlds for the last three years. She finished sixth in her first Olympics in 1998, but after falling to 16th in 2002, does not plan to return in 2006. She hopes to skate for a few years on the professional circuit.
Gusmeroli was coached for almost her entire career by Didier Lucine, but moved to Paris in 1999 to train with Katia Beyer. “My favorite jump is the triple lutz,” Gusmeroli stated. She’s also working on a triple lutz/double toe/double loop combination. Gusmeroli also performs a beautiful Biellmann spin and incorporates a number of unusual moves in her programs, including dropping into and popping out of a split on the ice.
Sandra Garde choreographed her Olympic programs, using “Cotton Club” and “Sing Sing Sing” for the short and “Papillion” and “Le Serpent” for the long. In 1997, Gusmeroli used circus music for the free skate that won her the Worlds bronze. “The idea of circus for my program came from my passion for the circus. It’s a program that I had when I was little and that I took up again a year ago. I love to watch circus on television. I’ve seen the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus in Florida and Pinder, Fratellini, Amar in France.”
When she’s not water skiing or skating, Vanessa likes snow surfing and golf. She also takes classical dance lessons and snow skis. Vanessa also likes animals, especially horses and cats, and has a pet cocker spaniel named Djinn. For travel, she likes sunny places like Florida, Crete and Greece. For someone with such an energetic schedule, Vanessa has one unusual tendency. “The hardest thing for me is to wake up early in the morning, because I love sleeping!”