The new year surely brings many changes and events, an essential one already in early January: the coaching change to Lyon. After the German Championships, we decided to take the step and leave our longtime, homelike training location in order to switch to the camp of head coach Muriel Zazoui. To us personally, it was a matter of the heart to leave Dortmund "on amicable terms." No other farewell would have been worthy of all those many wonderful years. In Dortmund, we've always felt that we were in good hands and supported, and we can only be grateful to the many dear people for this great time. Should it ever happen in the future that I'll have children who'd like to skate, the training center in Dortmund would certainly be my first choice.
Everyone was appreciative of our decision, so there was even a little farewell party that had quickly been arranged for January 1. Coaches, athletes, parents, and many others attended the party, and so we could use the opportunity to say goodbye to all those in Dortmund who mean something to us. We were particularly touched by a short film in which people sent us their personal greetings and their wishes for us. It's a really nice feeling to know that our old rink is still standing behind us just the same. The goodbye really wasn't easy, so you can expect a couple of eyes to have turned somewhat teary.
The move doesn't only signify a separation from the rink and our training mates, it also means parting with our family and all the friends and acquaintances in Wuppertal and Sprockhövel.
Actually, we had planned to undertake the 800 km in our small 1994 Peugeot (packed to the ceiling) on Saturday, January 2, but since our future roommates wouldn't return from Italy until January 3, we changed the date spontaneously.
That weekend, there was some snow chaos in Germany again, and therefore the trip took a good 9 hours. We were really lucky with the housing situation because friends had also
moved here and where still looking for roommates. Of course this came in
pretty handy for us, so that the decision was quickly made and the
"housing problem" solved.
Coincidentally, we're not living in the same apartment now, but in neighboring houses, so we certainly won't lose sight of each other. Both buildings are part of a typical complex of old French city houses, and we're still somewhat unfamiliar with living right in the city center. Our parental home in Sprockhövel is located in a very rural area, and while we were living pretty central in Dortmund, this was right next to the exhibition center and the rink, so the only time that a lot was going on there was during events. You can't enter the building with a key, but with a numerical code that gets changed regularly, which is quite useful (for people who lose keys). The anonymity in such a building has its advantages compared to village gossip. Nevertheless, we will definitely try to get to know some neighbors and other non-skating Lyonnais. The language is currently creating a barrier that's not to be underestimated, though.
At school we had both decided in favor of Latin in addition to English, not French, so now we're moving to another country which has a language in which we can't even isolate the single words within a sentence. At the rink, almost everyone speaks perfect English, but apart from that, the French are rather hard to convince to use their English skills (which aren't that bad in general). In most cases, you can make yourself understood by using gestures, but it's also fun to engage in a new language and to understand more and more from week to week. When we read something, we at least have three languages as options to derive the word stem, and therefore the probability of guessing correctly isn't even that bad. Unfortunately, we're all the more lost when it comes to listening comprehension and speaking. We'd like to use the opportunity to take an intensive language course here from February in order to solve this problem as quickly as possible.
Compared to Asia or North America, the French culture is very similar to that of Germany, but still we encounter small things again and again that are simply "different." Be it the bakery or old traditional buildings, there's always something new for us to discover. Punctuality doesn't rate as high as in Germany, either. However, we can hardly really judge this after just 4 weeks. But just as a little example: shopping hours sometimes seem to be down to the salesperson's whim instead of being stipulated.
At the moment it's still easy to see the differences in a positive light. For instance, you can hardly ever see Daniel without a croissant, baguette or crêpe in his hand. However, there are also days when we feel a little homesick.
The ice center here in Lyon is mainly an ice dance school, so we dancers get to use the ice from as early as 6 a.m. until 5 p.m. with a break of only 2 hours. Training here, besides Isabelle Delobel/Olivier Schoenfelder and Anna Cappellini/Luca LaNotte, are Pernelle Carron with her British partner Lloyd Jones, Russian skater Olga Orlova with Mathieu Jost, the British team of Louise Walden and Owen Edwards, as well as numerous (also international) junior teams. The coaching team divides the ice time among each other according to need and capacity, so that a versatile and individual training is being offered.
The rink is warm, light and modern, so nothing conflicts with a pleasant training atmosphere here. Moreover, a sufficient amount of additional training and fitness training is provided, so that nobody misses out when working on their own "problem areas."
Since we don't know for sure whether we'll be allowed to go to the World Championships, we keep practicing our programs and otherwise focus a lot on basics and other essential cinches. Every coach is a bit different, and it often helps a lot if something that's actually already known to you is being explained again by someone else in their very own way.
It did hurt a bit to see the other teams leave for Europeans while we could only follow the competition on TV. However, this will probably be even harder come the Olympics. The other teams received their Olympic gear last week, and with a look at the entries list, it's now actually sinking in how closely we missed participation. Hopefully we'll be able to seize our chance in 4 years, but since you never know what will happen until then, it's possible that this was our only chance at making this athletes' dream come true.
We're looking forward to the time that's coming, and we hope that we will learn much new on and off the ice.
Carolina and Daniel