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Gabi Podcast transcript!

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Sep 13th, 2019
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  1. Gabi Podcast transcript!
  2.  
  3. [rule of thumb: IN is interviewer, GP is Gabi]
  4.  
  5. [skipping the introduction bits where the host just introduces Gabi]
  6.  
  7. IN: You've had a beautiful career already, no?
  8. GP: No, that's right. It's a little difficult to realize it now, because we are always looking forward, thinking of the medals we want to get in the future, so –
  9. IN: You're not satisfied.
  10. GP: No, that's not it – of course I'm happy with what I've accomplished, but I think I'll only be able to sit down and think about it like that once we retire.
  11. IN: My first question is: have it always been a dream of yours, to become a figure skating champion?
  12. GP: No, not at all! [both laugh] Skating was something my mother had me do when I was four, but really I was involved in that world even before that, since she worked as a coach in Clermont-Ferrand – I think her water broke while she was on the ice! My very first gift as a baby was a little pair of skates – a toy. But so, because it was so integral to my life, there was never a moment of epiphany... In a similar way that I don't think a child dreams of going to school if he already goes every day. For me, it was just a normal, every day activity, that I did with other children. I think it came on gradually, since I must have liked it – my sister was skating as well, but she stopped after a while. No, my dream as a kid was to be a writer! [she laughs] I think the dreams started during those first competition days, where I dreamed of winning in my level, then the next level, and then I started skating with Guillaume. We immediately had very good results, so our goal was to be French national champions in the 'Poussin' category, then 'Minime', etc... So more and more, we had dreams of success, although our scope was limited – we never had stuff like the Olympics or World championships in mind. That didn't come until later, about 5 years ago, when we moved to Montreal for training. That was really the first time in our lives that we dedicated ourselves fully to skating. Before we always had our studies – Guillaume in prépas Beaux-Arts and me in Lettres Modernes [aka a French lit university degree] – and even though skating was always our priority there were other things in our lives that made it so we weren't necessarily fully committed to skating. Once we moved to Montreal it became our only activity and it became a professional endeavour. We treated it like it was our dream and our life and then we started having greater ambitions – in part because our skating made a lot of progress and we realized this was something we could go far in.
  13. IN: So at the very beginning, then, your mother was your coach?
  14. GP: Yes.
  15. IN: So how does that work, being coached by your mum?
  16. GP: From 4 to 17, my mother was my coach – until my late teens, then. Both me and my partner, for many years. It's very special – of course there are difficulties, especially when you are a teen and you want more freedom and your coach is always there, even at home, to say “go to sleep early, you have training tomorrow”, things like that. She did her best, and I had some freedom still, but it could be difficult. Not so much having your mum on the ice, but having your coach at home. But at the same time, probably without it I wouldn't at the level I am at now – who knows? Of course there are some who do very well without their mother being a coach. What is cool is that now it's something we can share, since we are in the same world: she can look at what I do and understand it and how difficult it can be. She can appreciate the technique, and we can talk about every day life and understand each other..
  17. IN: It must have been peculiar for your mother as well. She was still your mum when she brought you to competitions.
  18. GP: You'd have to ask her! [both laugh] It was complicated when I left – before Montreal we went to Lyon, and that was already a big separation. I needed that – to cut the cord a little.
  19. IN: I imagine skating wasn't really much of a choice –
  20. GP: I grew up in it.
  21. IN: – but with hindsight, do you feel that you chose this life? This sport? An imposition but not a constraint?
  22. GP: It's true that I can't remember ever wanting to start skating, but it was never a burden. The thing is, as well, that I went through primary school with 'horaires aménagés musique' [a curriculum designed to allow students to pursue music outside of school], since I also did music. Until the end of primary school I really shared both interests, but when it came to middle school if I wanted to continue studying music it would have been much more time consuming, and the school with the right accommodations was farther away. It was right around the time I started skating with Guillaume, so we also had to find time to train together, and so I had to make a choice – not so much to give one interest up entirely, but to pick one to pursue seriously. It was difficult, since I really liked music, and I had all of my friends there, but I picked Guillaume and I picked skating. So yes, it wasn't forced on me – even in hindsight, I knew it was what I wanted to do. I must have been 10 or 11.
  23. IN: And the choice to form a partnership with Guillaume? Who did that? Couldn't you have pursued a solo career?
  24. GP: Well, not really. There are no high level solo ice dance competitions, and since I never learned to jump I could never compete in singles. I knew I needed a partner to compete at a high level. Guillaume was training solo ice dance as well in the same rink. We used to take the same classes, etc... It's my mother who made us try-out for about a year before we made a decision, so we started around 8 or 9.
  25. IN: [laughs] What do you even do at 8 or 9? I mean it's a very complex sport! Was there choreography?
  26. GP: I just remember feeling very uncomfortable! [laughs] When you're used to skating alone and suddenly someone is telling to raise your arms and watch your feet and push back your shoulders... To any baby skater listening: I promise you it gets more comfortable! Don't worry! Especially since I grew up late so he was very tall compared to me, which was even more uncomfortable. But training with a partner completely transforms your skating.
  27. IN: I imagine you became friends very quickly? I can't imagine working like that with someone you hate.
  28. GP: It definitely happened in the past! Some couples were known to hate each other. But it's less and less common, I think. I don't think that could work nowadays – the level is too high to not get along with your partner. Guillaume and I were already kind of friends beforehand – I remember he came to my 8th birthday party or something.
  29. IN: At your 'boum'!
  30. GP: [laughs] It was more the playground kind of birthday. But I remember him very well in solo ice dance – he was always very good, very tall, and very air-headed. Often he would lose competitions he shouldn't have because he would fall on dumb things or go the wrong way or forget the choreo halfway through.
  31. IN: Thank god that stopped!
  32. GP: [both laugh] Yes, now I'm the one who does those types of mistakes more. We switched flaws! But yeah, that's how I remember him. There are videos where we can see him just make up the choreo in the middle of a competition while I try to wrangle him. “Those aren't the steps!” Nowadays it's more the other way – not in competition but in practice – he'll go: “uh, Gabriella, those aren't the steps.” We definitely adapted to each other: on my own my skating was very dynamic and stiff, while he was always very flexible and loosey-goosey. I had to grow more flexible and he had to pick up the pace! So now our skating is very attuned but that wasn't the case at all as kids.
  33. IN: So how did you live that adolescence – the peculiar adolescence of the sportswoman? Because you don't have the same rhythm as a regular kid. Do you feel like you had a regular childhood?
  34. GP: Yeah. Well – it was intense – but normal. I think because my mother was my coach, I was a very rebellious kid; I did a ton of very very dumb things. But it was definitely intense: at 6 I was up at the rink, then off to school at 8, then more time at the rink from 12-14, then more school, and when I was doing music I even went to the conservatoire in the evening. I did violin, I had four hours of solfège a week, orchestra class... Eventually I overdosed on music. I couldn't look at my violin again for years and years. Especially in high school, I think I needed to feel like I was just a regular teen – I definitely compensated. A lot of parties, and I wasn't a very good student... Not so much grades – I don't think my high school teachers remember me very fondly.
  35. IN: You were the class rebel.
  36. GP: That's right! [laughs] I had fun, and I had a lot of friends outside of skating, so I definitely don't feel like I missed a big part of my childhood.
  37. IN: Was skating something that helped you be social, to make friends?
  38. GP: Definitely, I had lots of skating friends, we would all go on training camps together. I remember endless games of hide and seek in the locker rooms when we had to wait... Every day... [both laugh]
  39. IN: How long can you realistically play hide and seek in the same locker rooms?
  40. GP: Well there were these really big lockers, so we would turn off the lights and climb in various lockers. I definitely met a lot of friends at the rink – we all kind of grew up together, the same group of people.
  41. IN: It sounds like a very familial environment. What was your relationship with your father?
  42. GP: I never lived with my father. They divorced a little while after I was born. At first he lived a small distance away in Lyon, then in Ain, and now he lives in Texas! He isn't at all involved in skating – he's Greek, so he basically discovered skating when he got married to my mother. He doesn't really understand it, so we never talk about it.
  43. IN: And are you close to your sister? You mentioned she skated for a little while as well.
  44. GP: We get along great but it's true we never ever talk about skating. She studies sociology now – we really have so many other things in common, we don't need to talk about skating. I think she must have had a skating overdose growing up, between me and our mum. She's so smart, I love talking to her – she reads a ton, and even unconsciously we tend to end up interested in the same topics a lot. I remember she was starting out meditation and she was pissed off that she was struggling. We got to talking – about mental blocks and how our bodies can manifest them; how to notice them and take care of your health, mental and physical. That was our last talk. [laughs]
  45. IN: You're a very multicultural person. Your father is Greek, your mother is French, you live in Canada, you speak several languages... I don't know, do you speak Greek?
  46. GP: I don't really speak Greek – I was better as a kid. No, I speak French, I speak Québecois [both laugh], I speak English because I have to, and I speak Italian because of my ex. [I didn't know they broke up :(]
  47. IN: That's the best way to learn a language.
  48. GP: Yes, I recommend it. [both laugh]
  49. IN: So how do you position yourself in this mix?
  50. GP: Well... What's weird is I don't really consider myself French? I mean, I am French, but I don't really feel it because I grew up in France, and I always stayed close to French culture even in Montreal – but somehow I feel a bit more Greek. Like the Greek temperament, very proud of their culture, that's not something I associate with France, this kind of national pride.
  51. IN: It's seen as kind of ill-bred.
  52. GP: Yes. My dad is always like – this word you just used, it comes from Greek – you know, democracy came from Greece. [laughs] A real Greek! And as kid I was more fluent because I visited family there once or twice a year, and now I don't visit as much. I love the country though, it's very beautiful, and I just love Mediterranean culture in general: the food, the landscape, etc... I think it's partly why I learned Italian. So yeah, I feel like I'm a bit of both. And now I've lived in Montreal for five years – in Montreal you experience the culture of Québec more than Canada. I love living in Montreal, it's such a cosmopolitan city, and I love the accent as well. [both laugh] No really, I miss it, it's been a week!
  53. IN: I can try to do it for you, but it won't be very good! [both laugh]
  54. GP: You know, even I struggle with it.
  55. [now they go into a little bit of a discussion about the differences between French and Québecois French. It's untranslatable really but there is a funny bit where Gabi explains that people in shops usually greet you with “Bonjour, hi!”, so the customer knows they speak both French and English and her friend thought they were saying a weird hybrid word like “Bonjourailles”]
  56. IN: Let's change the subject. So I follow you on social media, and what struck me is that you relay a lot of messages of tolerance, feminist messages, messages of self-acceptance, etc... And I feel like that's kind of rare among athletes. What is your personal definition of feminism?
  57. GP: Oof.
  58. IN: [laughs] Careful, we're getting into the serious subjects!
  59. GP: My definition of feminism... It's a big question!
  60. IN: Well, first of all: do you consider yourself a feminist?
  61. GP: Yes. Well, every time people ask this question, it boggles my mind – because I'm like: “well, I'm a woman!” For me the two really go hand in hand, since I was really young, how can you be a woman and not be a feminist, for me that never made sense. Well, sometimes people go “oh feminists are this and that”, but that's because they don't understand the meaning of feminism, or... I'm a feminist because I'm a woman and I want to be treated equally to men. For me it's always been that simple, ever since I was a kid. When I discovered the word I just felt like “ah, that's how you describe this feeling I have sometimes, that I don't get treated the same way as the boys. Now I have a word.” Now that I've grown up and it feels more current on social media and that's just wonderful, like a new wave almost, and it allows me to realize that even some of the things I had just taken in stride when I was younger, that I was blind to, they actually aren't normal. And it's in my temperament, I want to change things and to go outside the rules. Well, it's a vast subject, but that's how I would define it – I'm a feminist in the sense that I am a woman.
  62. IN: I don't think it's that self-evident for a lot of people. Do you feel perhaps that it's because you grew up in a very feminine environment – raised by your mum, with your sister...
  63. GP: Maybe; I remember my mother encouraging us to pursue higher education, to avoid being dependent. Actually, my brother, my sister and I all have different fathers – so we were all very attached to our mother, and we saw that we could make it on our own. I mean, I love my father, and my sister loves her father, but I think of them as two different people, I think of my mother on her own. So I had kind of that proof that you don't need to rely on a man to succeed.
  64. IN: You relay a lot of feminist messages on Instagram, where you have a lot of followers. You could be a feminist without doing that, so is it a concerted use of your 'fame'?
  65. GP: I don't think the way I post on social media would change with the number of followers I have. I don't think about stuff like that when I see a message that touches me, and I just think it's more interesting than photographs of people's breakfasts. Usually when I share a message it's because it touched me or it made me realize something that I didn't know. I think it's more interesting to share your thoughts on social media than that other stuff, but of course everyone's relationship with social media is different.
  66. IN: It's true that when you're a 'celebrity' people will listen a lot more to what you share. I know when I look at your Instagram I find it relatable, I like that you share stuff about periods... So even if you share the same picture as, say, a girlfriend of mine, it will have more impact on me – I know that's kind of stupid – because I know you aren't just talking to a private audience, that it is a public position. Do you perceive it like that?
  67. GP: Yes, in a sense, but you can't think about it like that – you lose all sense of being natural if you do that. Social media in our day and age is very complicated, it evolves constantly, no one really knows how to behave. I think people think you must have this very curated image, like if everyone posts pictures of their breakfast then I have to do it as well, but my breakfast pictures aren't as pretty so I start making a prettier breakfast, but actually it tastes disgusting or you don't even eat it. Sometimes I catch myself being influenced by that kind of things, but I think the best way to avoid this vicious circle on social media is to be yourself. So if your life is about beautiful breakfasts then by all means post those pictures but if it's not then I don't want to pretend like my life is this instagram-ish 'youpi tralala' [this one was too good to translate!] thing. I want the things I share to be more instantaneous, more natural, without overthinking things, so that you can reach people who are really interested in you.
  68. IN: A few days ago it was the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. Recently it was a big subject in sports. [here she explains a bit about a discussion that's been prevalent in French media recently about homophobia in sports, specifically football] L'Equipe asked a lot of sportsmen for comments, whether they are affected or not, but no one came forward. I feel like there is a lot of fear and shame surrounding those subjects. Do you understand those feelings as a sportswoman?
  69. GP: Yes, I understand them. Because I think it takes a lot of time to be comfortable with your own sexual orientation, especially when that orientation is not heterosexual. When you are in sports – whether you are famous or not – even in sports where homosexuality is by and large accepted (not even thinking of sports like football where it can very negatively affect your career), you need to be extremely comfortable with it yourself before you can live it publicly. So if you are not comfortable with it yet, if your private support system is just not there yet, then I completely understand. It's tragic. I think that's why athletes that have completed that journey, that are comfortable with the public nature of it are so important – but even then you are entitled to prefer that your private life remains private. But if you are comfortable it's even more important to talk about it and to be loud so that it becomes a normal occurrence, so that one day it becomes just another thing, where you can just say “he's gay? What about it?” But we're not there yet and that why I think whether you are affected or not it's important to talk about it and to be loud and to treat it as normal, to not treat those labels like “homosexual” or “bisexual” or “transgender” –
  70. IN: I feel like things are progressing faster in broader society than in sports. The article from L'Equipe is the first really big thing but even then you feel like people are not ready to have that debate because it got an avalanche of hate.
  71. GP: It's funny because I live in this bubble where it's extremely normalized. Homosexuality is allowed to be visible in skating in a way that – and even outside of skating I am mostly in artistic circles which are very similar and open-minded. So I move in this bubble where everything is normalized but every now and then I'll meet someone or talk to someone and I'll have this reminder that homophobia and transphobia are these extremely present things. I think it's very easy to not even realize that you live in this kind of bubble – I mean, even here in Paris – and then you talk to people from small villages and people from the countryside or even people from your own family and then you realize that even though you talk about it freely there is still so much to do. Especially since these are the people who watch TV and these are the people who read the paper, and who are affected by all this discourse. And I think I really needed to be confronted with these people and to be confronted with this homophobia to understand what a long road there is left – because it's difficult at first when you're in this bubble and you didn't even really need to create this argumentation against homophobia.
  72. IN: But so it takes these people who are ready to face this kind of mediatization.
  73. GP: Yes, I agree. [Both laugh]
  74. IN: This is a debate between people who are already convinced! [Sorry, there's really no English equivalent for this French expression. You get the gist]
  75. GP: [laughs] Yes, that's the problem – too many of our debates only reach people who are already convinced!
  76. IN: We'll have to wait for audience reactions. Figure skating is a sport traditionally associated with femininity, so it's not rare to hear things like “all the male figure skaters are gay”, “they are effeminate”, this kind of sexist remarks.
  77. GP: Yes, it's that way for a lot of boys, degrading; sometimes their families don't want want them to pursue skating. I know some men who had to separate from their families over skating. So even if from within skating it's accepted the rest of the world doesn't see it that way. For us women they don't care. Oh yes, it's a feminine sport, go on, put on some sparkly dresses. Hell, even within figure skating there is still sometimes this stigma, that the girl must be like this and the guy more masculine, come on, be more masculine, throw out your chest, hold the door for your partner – it's so exhausting, from both sides. Stop it!
  78. IN: Another side of things: one thing feminism deals with is body image and the pressure to be beautiful and thin as a woman. How do you reconcile your feminism with this sport – perhaps the sport that requires the most for the woman's body to be beautiful?
  79. GP: It's very difficult. [laughs] I think this is one of the big concerns in skating right now – this pressure to be beautiful and thin. It can be very difficult to live with as a woman or a girl. I'm only starting now to grasp just how much of an impact this kind of stuff has on mental health – the number of women in this sport who suffer from eating disorders. And the problem is we're all sort of guilty of spreading this cult of the beautiful and the thin – I was always extremely thin, and people always used to compliment me for it –
  80. IN: As if it was an accomplishment.
  81. GP: As if it was an accomplishment. And as a result I never bothered to learn how to eat well, I never bothered with sport dietetics, things that are necessary for your muscles to work properly, because well! I was already thin! Who cares? It was only a few years ago that I realized only eating pizza my body was going to start malfunctioning. I struggled with fatigue, I wasn't very strong, I couldn't gain muscle mass, because no one had ever taught me how to eat well. And eating well doesn't mean dieting! It means eating things that will make you stronger, eating your fill – all things I learned a couple of years ago when I realized I wanted to get stronger. I think that was a big part of my journey and my growth as a skater – realizing that my body was an instrument. And so it wasn't that I needed to shape this instrument to look a certain way, but that I needed to make sure to take care of it, so that I could use it properly.
  82. IN: So you're in this direction, but for a lot of women it's gonna go in the other direction, where they're gonna struggle with being “““overweight”””, women who don't fit the norms of this sport, and so who will put themselves through very intense diets – and not just in skating, of course, in most sports. Is there a solution to this?
  83. GP: Well, we have to stop! [laughs] Of course, our bodies have to be optimised to our sport – and if you have a little less muscle it can be a handicap. But I think we have to move away from the aesthetic side of things – it must become purely connected to athleticism. So yes, we do need to gain muscle, yes we do need to understand dietetics – but not in order to lose weight: in order to give our body the strength it needs. But the problem is that nobody tells girls how to do that – we are all told how to lose weight, but no one tells us how to put on muscle! Now I'm lucky enough to train in an environment in Montreal where people really understand this. When I first came here they asked me – “what do you eat?”, and I thought, “nobody's ever asked me that!”, because, well, I was thin. And I also think we need to stop critiquing women's bodies – you're too fat, you're too thin – as opposed to asking things like, “did you eat enough today”, or explaining that you shouldn't eat certain kinds of food before you exercise. Stop praising women for being thin – there are women who will never, ever fit this stick thin ideal, but that in turn can become their strength, because it means they can develop this musculature. Every body is different, and there are different ways to be strong, and you need to figure out your own way.
  84. IN: So what is your own definition of beauty?
  85. GP: My definition of beauty?
  86. IN: Well, it's interesting, because you're in this sport, and you watch skating on TV, and there's always this recurring commentary of things like, “she's so beautiful” – well, not said like that, but you feel there is always a judgement passed on the appearance of women skating.
  87. GP: Yes, it's annoying – sometimes I'll listen to the commentary and think, like, it's 2019, seriously. I think first of, it's an artistic sport – so things like the beauty of movement, the beauty of the costume, I think these are things that should count (like in dance!) but it mustn't become this kind of beauty pageant. Who has the prettiest dress, who has the prettiest butt – it's not Miss France! Again, everyone has their own definition. Personally I like having understated costumes, trying to put the emphasis on the choreography, but it all works as a package – while others want to have the brightest costume possible! And I think that's what makes the sport beautiful, when a skater has their own style, rhinestones or not. I think it's beautiful when a skater has picked their own music, and you can tell it's not their coaches' choice. I wish commentators focused more on technical matters, because beauty is also mostly in beautiful technique. Even if we want to feel good and look good, who cares at the end of the day about the beautiful girls or the beautiful hairdos. That shouldn't be the focus.
  88. IN: About the commentators: I think skating is lucky enough to be broadcast fairly often on TV, and it's the same commentators for many many years. They never change – we won't name them – and I think sometimes, correct me if I'm wrong, that skating suffers from a tacky image. I think people tend to mock it as this thing where girls (or boys) waggle around wearing sequins. Do you think it also comes from this kind of commentary?
  89. GP: Yes. Well, partly. Perhaps not even that big of a part, since I think skating can also have that image in countries when the commentary isn't like that – but I think it also comes a lot from the rules and who decides on the rules, those are often very old people. I think the problem is that skating was extremely popular in the West during the 80s, and that we didn't really let it evolve. We're not in the 80s anymore, and I think it can't gain in popularity if you don't catch those new audiences. Even the commentators, who are they, they were popular in the 80s! So I think they also tell them to make these types of jokes – Candeloro, I like him, but I think his commentary hasn't evolved, and there are jokes that you can't make anymore, and maybe they still appeal to some people – when you see what other stuff they put on TV – but mainly they are alienating. But yes, I think we should be using this kind of dip in popularity to change things up.
  90. IN: So how do you achieve that, how do you give the sport a boost, how do you get young people to think it's not like that, to see the sport and the athletic side?
  91. GP: I think I'm not the right person to answer that question because I'm too in the middle of it. I think maybe when I retire I'll see a clearer picture – but I think beyond commentary, the sport itself has to transform, and I think this kind of change can't just come from one place. I think also it's up to the younger generation, the up-and-coming skaters – it would be nice if they were allowed more innovation, perhaps not skating to the same music choices all over again, to do things that they like!And if what you like is classical music then skate to that – I think the problem right now is not that too many people are skating to classical music, but that too many are skating to it and obviously not enjoying it. When someone is skating to Carmen because their federation told them to do it, it's depressing, compared to a skater that really wants to skate to it.
  92. IN: Skating is one of the rare – it's half-sport, half-art. You talk a lot about music, what is your relationship to art as a whole? You and your partner pick your own music, how do you approach that side?
  93. GP: I think both Guillaume and I are far more interested in the artistic side than the athletic – and other skaters are a lot more about being athletes, in which case the artistic side is not the main thing; again everyone has their unique approach that works for them. But again, Guillaume studied for Beaux-Arts, I studied literature and music... I think we've always been more drawn to the art – I know I wouldn't do any other sport! [laughs] Maybe dance, music, but not another sport. So yes, it's a lot of that that excites us, the choreography, the choice of music within the constraints of the rules – sometimes they make it very difficult. But at the end once you've found a way that makes the end result even more special. We're very hands-on with our choreo; we pick choreographers, we talk with them, it's more of a team effort. Right now it's the off season, so we are having a little vacation, but before we left we worked for two weeks in Montreal to talk choreo and music. We tried dancing to various kinds of music, we talked about choreographers, we tried some little things off the ice... All of that is just so awesome, it's why I enjoy this – it's exploration, it's playing with the music and with movement, with stories...
  94. IN: So how do you choose your music? Do you make proposals, are you thinking in themes – so far your FDs have been mostly classical?
  95. GP: Well, in fact just two of them – Mozart and Beethoven, although it's true they seem to be the most memorable. It's just this label of classical skaters when we did two programs to classical music – and it's not bad! I love classical music, I studied it for years in school. It's just that, before we skated to Mozart, it was unthinkable – before we skated to things like Pink Floyd, Elvis, Matrix... It wasn't always very good [both laugh] but it was always experimental! The year before we did Woodkid – that was more our style. But then once we got to Montreal our coach said “look at this ballet”, and we were like, “Mozart? Are you serious?” But then the ballet was a more modern take on Mozart – something that, incidentally, has been done in dance for decades, but somehow in skating it wasn't done... So we weren't innovating – it's just skating is very late to that kind of thing! But yes, we wanted to connect skating with that world of modern dance, contemporary dance. Because ice dance, at the start, was ballroom dances transposed on the ice – and we stayed there! No one really dances quickstep at the club, you know – and I love quickstep, it's so pretty, but when it's all that's on the TV it's not surprising people don't tune in! So for us it was very much about loving the things happening in the dance world and trying to connect that to our skating. I think it would be great if people from other artistic disciplines could start looking at ice dance – to forge connections with modern music, modern dance.
  96. IN: And you, Gabriella, what do you listen to? Do you dance? What do you look for artistically outside of skating?
  97. GP: Outside of skating? It's kind of strange, because the music I like to skate to isn't the same as the music I like to listen to. At the moment I'm listening to a lot of funk – but I don't especially want to skate to funk! [both laugh] On the ice, I think with Guillaume we both really like to play with silence – sometimes unconsciously, we always gravitate towards music with a lot of silence. We love it, there's so much that happens during the silence, a connection to the public, we really love that. Outside of skating, I've been doing improv theater since September and I'm having a lot of fun – especially since it's a big thing in Montreal. I love to dance, but as a child I did a little bit of classical, with Guillaume we did a lot of contemporary, lots and lots of ballroom, we dabbled in hip hop a few years ago... I think it's important to have that varied background so you are ready to take on the new style every year – and just because it makes your body smarter. Honestly there's really no style of dance I strongly prefer over any other. For example I've got a passion for swing – the music, the dance – often in Montreal I go to swing evenings. That's more of a hobby, but I really enjoy it, I love corporeal expression in general.
  98. IN: Maybe a dancer's career after you're done with skating!
  99. GP: Uh, no! [laughs] Dancing is really hard. I do know I'll dance all my life.
  100. IN: To go back to sport as a profession, there's a question I want to ask: what do you think about the fact that people think of you as part of a partnership, a body with two heads? When you're announced it's “Papadakis Cizeron”, not really Gabriella the world champion.
  101. GP: Once again I don't think I have the hindsight to answer a question like that. I think it's very special – I don't want people to talk about me in singular when my career has been with Guillaume. We've skated together for 15? 16 years? We grew up together, and it was very important for us to create our personal lives as distinct from each other – very distinct, in fact. Outside of the rink we rarely see each other, we each have our own friends, our own hobbies, because we spend the whole day together, and in our sport we are always assimilated. When you are young I think it can be a bit difficult to be your singular self in the midst of that, but I think in the end we did pretty well. We really are two different people once we're off the ice and I think it helps to leave those distinct selves behind us in the locker room, to really concentrate on that communion once we're on ice. We get along extremely well in the rink and outside of it we both have our own lives and it's a great arrangement, although it'll be very strange when we retire, and we have to deal with our new relationship as 'two' people.
  102. IN: It's really a couple, I mean it's coupled dance.
  103. GP: Yes, and even now things I do or say publicly can affect Guillaume, and vice versa, so we always have to be conscious of that, even though it's important to have a personal life. For example, at the Olympic Games, Martin Fourcade had named me the flag-bearer for the closing ceremony, and it was really awesome but I also felt a bit uncomfortable – because there's not really just me! There's two of us! So Guillaume ended up coming with me, because in the sport it's Gabriella and Guillaume, you know, and I didn't want to separate from that.
  104. IN: But you did.
  105. GP: I asked him! I asked him, I said I'll do it with Guillaume!
  106. IN: So about the Olympic Games: obviously I followed you there, and then all the media hullabaloo afterwards. Now, with the hindsight of a year, how did you deal with the fact that for weeks and months what everyone would talk about was your costume malfunction? I just though that was such a pity, that it sort of was the whole story, and of course it became kind of an international joke contest... How did you live with that?
  107. GP: Well, first of all it was difficult for us to come second in the Games – we went there to win and the costume mishap prevented us from doing that. And it was a sport incident, but still a dumb incident. So it was difficult to accept that it had happened, our preparation be damned, and – and fuck, I mean, we are athletes, and so when something like that happens... it's difficult to accept that something external like that disrupted your performance. So we really struggled to deal with that – and whatever the subject is, anyway, it's hard psychologically when the interviews always, always bring up the same subject. And talking about it – it's a constant reminder of the incident, and of why we couldn't compete at our best – I mean, we think we would have the gold medal without it, maybe we wouldn't have! But the problem is, in the moment, that was what we felt, and it was difficult to have it brought up all the time. And yeah, the way it was brought up wasn't always...
  108. IN: Relevant.
  109. GP: Relevant, exactly. For me, it was like, I'm an athlete, I had a costume mishap – it was a sport incident. I don't give a fuck about having my boob hanging out – everyone was like, oh the poor thing, we saw her breasts – I don't care. People would come up to me and say: “oh, don't worry, I didn't see your breasts”, like, I don't care!! Maybe at least if you'd seen them! So it was annoying that people thought I was – because as well you could see, all the cameras when I got off the ice, I wanted to cry, I was so angry! But it transformed into “the poor thing, she's crying because we saw her breasts.” [laughs]
  110. IN: But it's a real question! Did you really not care?
  111. GP: Well – of course my preference would not be for people to see my breasts on TV. [both laugh] But you know, for me my body is really my instrument, and my breasts aren't breasts, it's just a part of my body – I'd prefer if people didn't see them, but it doesn't really matter. I think every woman has her own approach, but for me when I'm skating my body is my instrument, it's not a sexual body. Outside of skating, in my private life, I can re-appropriate my body as a sexual thing – but on the ice, people see my breasts, I don't think of it as... It's just a part of my body, of an athlete's body. So for people to sexualize that, for me it wasn't that at all, no – I was pissed off that it prevented me from skating at my level and to do the performance for which I'd worked.
  112. IN: It seemed like everything got reduced to – that your performance, the sports thing, months of preparation – everyone just focused on that.
  113. GP: A boob hanging out. And you've worked hard all year on your twizzles and then, ah! A boob hanging out! [both laugh]
  114. IN: So what are your objectives now, because I mean you are four times WC, five times Euro Champions... You are still very young, your time in this sport can be many years still... What is it that maintains you in this sport? What gets you up in the morning?
  115. GP: Well, now that we're four times WC [both laugh] we don't want to hand over our title. On the sports side I'd say we're working from a place of pride – well, not pride – maybe personal pride, we don't want to lose something we have. But it's not really what gets us up in the morning – that's maybe something that helps us mentally in competition. No, in the morning, it's what I talked to you about, it's the artistic journey, the fact that we're doing something that we created from scratch, that we're proud of, that we created something beautiful, the pursuit of beauty.
  116. IN: And I'm going to ask you the journalistic question... [nasal voice] And then you want to have your revenge in the next Olympic Games? [both laugh]
  117. GP: Our revenge... Well obviously, we want to win.
  118. IN: Well, it's true it won't be against the Canadians that beat you since they've retired.
  119. GP: No, but... there are a ton of other skaters, there will always be competition, nothing is won in advance... But again, no, I wouldn't say it's what gets us up in the morning. [whispers] It would piss us off if we didn't win again though. [laughs]
  120. IN: I don't know if you saw – a few months ago, there was a survey on TF1 on France's favorite competing sportswoman –
  121. GP: [excited] Oh, yeah!
  122. IN: – and you were number 1! Congratulations! How did you learn about it?
  123. GP: My mum texted it to me – I woke up in the morning like, the hell's this? And all day, I was wondering – what does it mean? The favorite competing sportswoman. No, it was really cool – it's difficult to grasp... I've got no idea why I got picked for that. I didn't even know this survey existed, so it wasn't something I was aiming for, but I think it's great because I think it shows skating has more coverage than I thought. Whether it's through me, or through skating – if it gets people interested in skating, it shows skating isn't that unknown. So that made me really happy – you know, a figure skater got picked number one! So that was a cool thing for skating.
  124. IN: Would you have picked yourself? [both laugh]
  125. GP: Never in a million years!
  126. IN: It's kinda funny, because you're in first with 27%, then right behind you there's Perrine Laffont that does mogul skiing.
  127. GP: That's two winter sports athletes!
  128. IN: Yes, two winter sports, and as well mogul skiing I think there's even less coverage than a sport like figure skating. And then afterwards there's tennis-women or footballers, where it's a bit more logical.
  129. GP: Well, I think it shows that, apart from certain sports like tennis or football, French people get interested in sports where people are winning medals. Someone like Martin Fourcade, he made his discipline popular, I don't think at first it was really on people's radars, but he made it well known by having great results. So I think that's the reason behind Perrine Laffont, behind me – people get interested in your results, even though the sports aren't necessarily very popular.
  130. IN: While we're on this topic: a question we ask all of our guest. If you had to pick a sports moment that made an impact on your career, something where you were a spectator, what would you pick?
  131. GP: Hmm... it's difficult because I don't really watch a lot of sports. [laughs]
  132. IN: Or even an athlete, male or female, that inspired you?
  133. GP: Well... I was very young, but there was Surya Bonaly. I think she had a really, really big influence on skating – I think still today she has a great influence of women's skating especially. She's kind of immortal for that – what she represented. She was a strong woman, muscular, of colour, she was the complete inverse of the other competitors and of what we expect from skating – what we still expect, sadly. But I think she was a beautiful athlete first and foremost, and that helped her be a great skater, but I think that's still lacking in this sport today – beautiful female athletes. I think it's just not encouraged enough, strength and muscle mass in a woman, and I think that's sad because it's beautiful! More recently I would say Javier Fernandez – I think he's very inspiring as well. We talked about France and how skating isn't very popular there, but Spain! NO ONE watched skating there before, there wasn't really a – and he made the sport popular there. Now he's almost as well known as the footballers over there, it's crazy! This winter, around December, we participated in a show he put together in Madrid, and there was dozens of thousands of people! That came there to watch Javier skate. He's almost like a pop star there – the show sold out so quickly that they decided to add another date, that almost immediately sold out as well. I don't know exactly how many people came, maybe over a hundred thousand people in two days. And that's just not something you see in France or really anywhere – except maybe Japan or Russia. I remember when he won his first competitions, it was crazy to see a Spaniard ascend to the top of the world, and to stay there as well! He was, what, seven times Europeans champion? It's crazy, not just that he's so good, but that he managed to create something in his home country like that, even though there wasn't a tradition for it at all. That really had an influence on me.
  134. [now there's a bit where the interviewer talks about three books she's reading right now and which one Gabi would pick. It's kinda weird but Gabi picks one about female champions in sports history.]
  135. IN: Last question: the podcast is called 'Championne du monde'. How do you define a championne?
  136. GP: I think it's clearly a state of mind. I think whether in sports or elsewhere I think it's about cultivating this strength of mind, always wanting to surpass yourself.
  137. [finally Gabi is asked to pick the ending music and she chooses Four Women by Nina Simone!]
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