Interview: Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès at Internationaux de France 2018

Vanessa and Morgan performing their Short Program “Uninvited” at IDF 2018 (   Photo credit: Clara   )

Vanessa and Morgan performing their Short Program “Uninvited” at IDF 2018 (Photo credit: Clara)

Evie: Hi there everyone, this is Evie (@doubleflutz). While at IDF 2018, Clara (@daejangie) got to interview some truly amazing skaters, while also running from press room to rinkside being a one-woman media juggernaut. On the day of the gala, she sat down with Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès, the 2017 World Bronze medallists and the top Pairs qualifiers to the Grand Prix Final, which takes place this week. Here’s the interview, hope you enjoy it.

Clara: So first I wanted to ask about how it feels cause I guess you've gone from being solidly top five, top ten with a slow rise over the past couple of seasons. Now you're consistent podium hopes slash winning easily...


Morgan: “Easily,” I'm not sure.

Clara: You made it look easy.

Vanessa: Thank you.

Clara: What's that felt like from a pressure perspective, a confidence perspective - what's that been like to manage?

Morgan: You know, we just train hard. It was always our goal to be on the podium, on the top of the podium. We are really happy about the beginning of this season cause we couldn't have [had] better results; we won all the competitions we did. So far we are very happy, now we have to keep going and not stop.

Vanessa: Well, [in] the beginning of this season, I don't think we put much pressure on ourselves because we knew already that the Russians were still going to be very strong and the Chinese always have strong couples also. And, yes, we're getting up there but you know we haven't won a European Championship, we haven't won a World Championship and we had never won a Grand Prix until Canada. So we didn't have pressure because we've always been a little bit in the situation. It's been better now, lately, but we don't think any more of ourselves. I think we're confident, but we're confident because we're confident in our training and what we've been doing and we love our programs this year. So, heading into the season I think, while we skated so well in the beginning of the season, is because we've just trusted ourselves and I think we were a little bit more nervous here. I was anyways, maybe because we skated so well in Canada. We got a world record and it's hard to beat a clean program like that so early in the season. So I think the next steps we have to do is just stay focused on ourselves again, and focus on all the little details, technique and component-wise heading into the Grand Prix Final.

Clara: And so the aim is GPF and Europeans?

Vanessa: Yes.

Clara: Gold at both?

Vanessa: Yes! (laughter) We're going to try, we're going to try.

Clara: I'll look forward to it. I know you've talked a lot about working with Guillaume [Cizeron] on the Short and what that was like. I don't want to make you repeat all that, so can you tell me a bit about what it was like working with Charlie [White] on the Free? Was it different? How did it feel compared to other choreographers?

Morgan: Of course it was different. Two different [people], two different skaters, two different styles. But Charlie gives us a lot too and did a really good job on the long program. We made a few changes like step by step because some program you cannot just do the choreography and then everything is going to be good. So we had to adjust a lot of things but I'm really happy about what he did and [how] we progressed on this program with him and I guess everybody likes our long program, so that's good.

Clara: It's gorgeous.

Vanessa: Thank you! Charlie did a great job and we enhanced it a little bit as the season went about, and he came back and worked on it with us. So it was really nice working with him, he's very professional, he's very funny. He's so outgoing and very positive, he has really good energy so we're excited to work with him again in the future.

Clara: And then, you mentioned this briefly in the press conference on the very first day, is the quad Sal gone for good under the new +/-5 system? What's the story?

Vanessa: It's gone until it's worth it again. (Clara: Sure.) As Morgan was saying, he thinks that we should keep the -5 but keep the base value as it was because it's still worth the risk, especially if you do it well. And if you go for the risk and have -5 it's still worth it, maybe. But it's definitely not worth it now, you know what I mean? So for me it was a little bit counterproductive because our sport was evolving and people were coming to watch because it's risky, it's scary, it's cool, it's athletic, and I feel like we're just going backwards. But maybe we can find a compromise.

Morgan: Balance, yeah as we said, we should keep the +/-5 because that's really good, because +/-3 was not enough for some people putting arms up and like amazing transitions before [the element]. And just like the going back on the base value on the quad, even for the boys, I think it's going to be a bad idea.

Clara: Has it changed anything else about the way you structured or approached your programs - this +/-5 [system]?

Vanessa: Yes, definitely. Well, more the quad, because we had to structure our program around it so that we would be warmed up enough but we would have enough energy and be able to maintain the rest of the program. So we had a little less transitions, we always had to place the elements in the same kind of format. But this year we are more free to do throws later in the program, to do more transitions. We're not so focused on just one element, but we can actually have more freedom to do many different transitions into all the elements now.

Clara: It must be easier, almost, to sort of really get into the performance if you're not worried about [the quad] coming up.

Vanessa: Yeah, the quad.

Morgan: Changed a lot.

Vanessa: The energy...

Morgan: Mentally and physically changed a lot, and even for [Vanessa] - we're not talking about just competition, because we have to do the quad every day in practice and some days are harder than others. So it's less risk for her, for her body and I think it's good for us now to not do the quad again.

Vanessa: Sometimes we miss it though! We're like "Oh, that could have been a good one!" (laughter) It's kind of boring now.

Morgan: And some days we're like "I'm so glad we don't have to."

Vanessa: Yeah, when it's cold and things like that, you know, or we feel the pain in our bodies. We're like "Hmm, better we're not doing it."

Clara: Was the ice okay here? I felt like I saw some puddles, I was at rinkside. Was it alright?

Morgan: No, it was good ice for the time they had to make the ice and to make everything clean here. It was warm-

Vanessa: [There] was a little bit of puddles in the long program but it was a long day.

Clara: Yeah, it's always going to melt a bit, sure.

Vanessa: We had quite a few people in the rink so it was quite warm but the ice quality was very good.

Clara: Perfect. And then, final question, we're going to see you in the exhibition in 40 minutes - I don't even know - are we going to see any more terrifying headbangers? What's the plan?

Vanessa: Yes you will! (laughter) Hopefully, I won't hit my head because we didn't practice it but I trust him.

Clara: Oh wow.

Morgan: We didn't have a lot of time to do everything today, but we're just happy to skate for [the] public and I think it's just a bonus of such a good competition and good quality of the week. Just to give back to the public and the TV, actually, in France, I think it's just good for us.

Clara: Can you tell me just a little bit about the exhibition program, how you came up with it?

Morgan: We had this idea, cause she's black and I'm white (Vanessa: Like it could be cute). Could be cool to do black and white, it just sounds like Michael Jackson, "Black or White." So we find this and we actually love Michael Jackson, so we made it like this.

Vanessa: We just like having fun, so, you know, it's something everyone, something we can dance to without having to be really good dancers, hopefully. I say that but I'm not sure. (laughter) But we love Michael Jackson, everyone does, and it's fun, we can move (Morgan: Your body can dance) - and Morgan looks awesome in his outfit, in his little knee slide in the beginning!

Clara: Keep an eye out for that then. Okay, cool, well [Vanessa] you're freezing (Vanessa: Yeah), you've done so much media today (Morgan: Thank you so much). I'll leave it here.

Evie: So there you have it. Thanks to Vanessa and Morgan for sitting down with us, and as always, thank you to Clara for all the work she did over that busy weekend. We’ll be back next week for an episode all about the 2018 Grand Prix Final, so stay tuned for that. If you want more news from IDF 2018, you can check out episode 19 in which Dani, Kat and Tilda recap their highlights from the competition or our special interviews with Stéphane Lambiel and Kévin Aymoz. You can find both wherever you usually find our podcasts. See you soon, bye!