Interview

Away from the ice rinks, this coach realized his dream


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Olivier Chapuis particularly enjoyed visiting Japan. 

During the Covid-19 outbreak, many coaches and skaters had to deal with the fact that they wouldn’t be on the ice for a very long time. Olivier Chapuis, head coach from the synchronized skating teams in Compiegne, France, hasn’t stepped on the ice for over 10 months! Why? In September 2019, he started a trip around the world with his wife and son. He had to come back home early because of the coronavirus.

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Olivier, can you tell us why you decided to go on a world trip?

At first, it was a dream of a 10-year-old boy, then a project of a young couple and finally a family wish. My wife and I have jobs that are often staggered. So, we decided to take the time to experience things together. In addition, we are passionate about travel and we wanted to experience this adventure in a backpack, which requires good physical shape. 

And why did you do it this year?

We chose last season because several things were possible for us. In France, we can ask our employers for a year without work and resume the same work afterward.  But for that, he gives us several years of seniority. Then last year our son did not have exams at school, which allowed him to follow his education at distance.

Which countries did you visit?

We visited: Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, French Polynesia, New Zealand, Australia, Bali, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Japan. We were in Japan when our embassy asked us to return to France. We arrived in France on June 23 but due to COVID-19, that was 2 months earlier.


So you and your family had to go home earlier than planned. How are you feeling now?

Indeed, we were a little sad to go back, but we took advantage of this great adventure for more than 8 months. In the end, all that is missing is China, which we were unable to visit. The second country which had closed these borders and where we should have ended our road trip was Indonesia, but we already knew this country from having been there three times. We are still lucky because the pandemic arrived at the end of the trip, some traveling friends had to go back home after only a few weeks.

That will probably be a very difficult question but which country was your favourite, and why?

I fell in love with Bali, but I admit that Japan and New Zealand are not far from the top spot. Bali for its nature side and paradise island.  Japan for its culture, gastronomy, and respect for traditions and rules. For my wife and my son, Japan comes first.


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What impressed you the most during your trip? 

This world tour was like a break in our lives. This allowed us to do a little introspection and what impressed us was the human being's ability to adapt. We were also amazed by the diversity of colours, music, cultures, dances, and gastronomies that make up our planet. 

How did you stay in touch with your skaters during your travel adventure and during the Covid-19 lockdown?

I actually followed our teams' performances thanks to the internet. It was very effective to keep in touch. There is always a Wifi connection somewhere in the world. The only thing to consider is the jet lag and the difference in time zones! And even today we are still working by videoconference in order to prepare the new season.

Some of his skaters travelled to Sweden to skate
Your teams competed in the 2019-2020 season with a different coach and had some good results! Who did coach your teams while you were traveling?

Last season, a friend and colleague (Vincent Gironde) ice dance teacher joined my staff. We went on a trip at the beginning of September, which allowed me to participate with him in the composition of the season's programs. In our staff, we also have a physical trainer (Christophe Lemoine), a choreographer (Marie-Hélène Bove), a scenic expression teacher (Marc Simon) and we have three ice coaches with the help of Laetitia Carrez. It's a great staff who allowed our teams to have a great season. Our Juniors (Black Diam's) won the national title, our Novices A (Magic Crystal) became French champions for the first time. And our three other teams have made superb progress. At the start of the season, the teams learned to work differently, but at the end of they understood that the victory was up to them and not to the coaches.

Some of your former Junior skaters were skating for Sweden the past couple of seasons. Did they help the teams while you were away?

Exactly, the Compiegne club has always been a training club for the ISU senior level. We don't have an ISU senior team in Compiegne. When skaters want to continue their skating career at the end of the ISU junior career, we help our skaters to find an ISU senior team to pursue their dream! Two of our skaters are also vice-world champions in Sweden with Team Surprise. And it is true that we have little help sometimes!


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You're organizing your own summer camp each year in Leuven, Belgium at the beginning of August which is open for skaters from all levels and different countries (Belgium, The Netherlands, and France). You'll be back!

Yes, from August 3 to 7, I am organizing my 2nd summer camp in Belgium with the help of the Louvain ice rink. I am super happy that the sanitary conditions allow us to make this event happen. It's a moment that I really appreciate because it's a technical development course which allows many skaters to find technical answers. It's a summer camp with a limited group of skaters (~ 20) which allows me to spend time with each skater and find the most suitable solution to their technical problem which allows me to be more efficient. Moreover, if this type of summer internship tempts you, I'm always available.

Is the ice rink in Compiegne open already?

For the moment the ice rink of Compiegne is closed. We'll be on the ice on August 17.  But our Junior and Novice A teams have already returned to work. We are working on video and we are getting ahead of this new season.


New ideas?
No doubt that your world trip was very inspiring. Are we going to see some of this in the programs of the teams this season? For example, an Indian Bollywood, Brazilian carnival, or a passionate tango from Argentina! 

Indeed, this world tour allowed me to recharge my batteries physically and artistically. But if you expected programs on this theme then you will be disappointed. I do not copy the programs of our teams solely on my personal experiences. I prefer to be in consultation with them to understand and feel their choreographic desires. These must be designed according to the technical and emotional maturation of the skaters. So, I will meet you on the edges of the track to find out.

Thank you so much for your time Olivier, all the best for your summer camp in a couple of weeks and lots of luck for your teams the upcoming season!

Very good season to all, teams, coaches, and staff around the world. And take care of yourself!! THANK YOU to Jura Synchro and these reports for allowing the world of synchronized skating to have specialized and information media of this quality.