Interview With Vanessa Grenier And Maxime Deschamps

Photograph of Canadian figure skaters Vanessa Grenier and Maxime Deschamps

In their first season together, Vanessa Grenier and Maxime Deschamps achieved the impossible: standing atop the podium as Canadian Junior Pairs Champions. What made this feat even more incredible was that although Maxime had competed the previous year as a pairs skater, Vanessa had no pairs experience and was a former Senior Ladies competitor. Already showing consistency, attack and technical prowess in their skating, their free skate at the Nationals this year commanded audience and showed nothing but HUGE potential for the future. Vanessa and Maxime took time for their training schedule to talk about their win at Canadians, plans for the future, partnership and much, much more in this all new interview:

Q: You've had so much success in your skating careers already and you're both just getting started. You won the Canadian junior title this year in Ottawa and really proved yourselves in doing so. What have been the proudest moments so far in your skating careers and what's next for you?

A from Vanessa: That title is certainly one of the best moments so far but what we remember from that competition is also our performance in the long program. We both felt really good and we did a program that looks like the ones we do in practice. We gave everything and we were really proud of how we skated. We can say that we were able to fully enjoy the moment as we skated a clean program. I think our smiles were sincere throughout the whole program because we were really having fun on the ice
and living the moment! We are also very proud of the whole season. We worked hard and we saw the results. We've shown a constant progression and we've received tons of good comments from everyone.

A from Maxime: Our goal this season was only to make a good impression and we think we made more than that with this title. It is beyond our expectations. We never thought, when we started together, that we would reach this level so fast. From our first competition of the season to the last competition, we improved our short program score by 12 points, and and our long program score by 25 points. We were improving our score at every single program we were doing in competition and that was the goal we set before every competition.

Q: Vanessa, you competed as a singles skater prior to teaming up with Maxime and have won the silver medal on the junior level at Canadians, been a top ten ranked Senior Ladies competitor in Canada and had success internationally as well. How difficult was making the transition from singles to pairs?

A from Vanessa: Much easier than I expected! I had the perfect partner to start with, because he had the experience and strength to guide me and hold me. There is no pair element he can't do, due to his strength and experience, so that made my job easier. I only had to focus on myself to make the elements work. I also had to develop my strength, flexibility and presence on the ice a lot during my singles career, as I had to be strong on my own if I wanted to perform well. So even without the experience in pairs, I was bringing something else to the team. In a different way, my intensive training in singles was indirectly a good training for pairs.

Q: Maxime, last year you finished in 7th in Junior Pairs at Canadians with your former partner Naomie Boudreau. What made you decide to switch partners and what really clicked the most with Vanessa that helped you make such a quick jump in the standings after only one year together?

A from Maxime: In pair skating, the match makes a big difference. With that other partner, the match just wasn't the right one. We weren't working for the same goal. I was expecting for better results and we knew that we wouldn't achieve them together. Changing partners is definitely not the most thrilling part of skating. Finding the good partner is so difficult. I think we both made a smart move in searching for new partners. She also had success this year with her new partner Cédric Savard, as they came 3rd in the Novice pairs event. I'm happy for her and I think she is also happy for me, it's just better for both of us this way.

Q: Canada is a country that's just full of pairs skating legends - Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini, Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler, Jamie Sale and David Pelletier and countless others. Who is your favourite Canadian pairs team and why?

A from Vanessa: My vote goes to Jamie Salé and David Pelletier. Talk about finding the right partner! They are the perfect example. Together they had a chemistry like no other. They've had memorable skates, not so much because of their technical abilities, but because of their performance level. They were connecting with each other and that was something special. They had the power to make us feel something as spectators - to believe in their stories and connect with them. They were special and they still are when they perform in shows. As for the other pair teams, I'm a little too young to remember them, but I heard so much greatness about many of them! They all have their unique qualities.

A from Maxime: Same for me... Jamie Salé and David Pelletier. The day I saw them skate at the Olympics is the day I told myself I would be at the Olympics one day. Before that day, I was just skating just to improve my skating skills to play hockey. After that day, I had a dream. In the beginning, I wanted to compete singles but at the age of about 16 years old, I realized it would be impossible for me to go as a single skater. I started doing pairs. There were pair teams training at the place I was skating at that time, and I was so impressed by the lifts. When my coach told me to do my first lift, I just remember telling myself that I wasn't strong enough to do this. Then I tried my first lift and I fell in love with pair skating. Salé and Pelletier were already my idols. I wanted to become as great as them. I still remember their entire program at the Olympics - the "Love Story" program. It was one of the best programs ever performed, because of the chemistry between them. It was incredible. The fluidity on the ice was amazing. They were flying and everything was looking so effortless.

Q: What are your long term goals in the sport and what do you want to focus on next season the most?

A from Vanessa: The 2018 OLYMPICS! This is the first long term goal that we planned. However this is really far, so our focus is not so much on that right now. We want to plan one season at the time. We will start pretty soon our 2 new programs for the next season. We want to make them much more elaborated and tricky. We're going to have fun with our choreographer Julie Marcotte, choreographing our new Senior programs. Our choreography this past season was built after less than 2 months skating together. We improved so much during less than a year that we need 2 completely new programs to show our new abilities. We have to bring our programs, this time, to the level we are now. We also have to consider that we will still improve. As for the technical aspects, in the next couple months we want to learn new lifts, new throws, and we also want to add the triple twist. This is where our focus is for the off-season. Adding to that, we hope we made a good impression enough to be sent to international senior competitions in the next season. I don't think Max wants to add anything to this. We've discussed so many times about our goals and we agree on all of them. We are truly working in the same direction.

A from Maxime: Haha... Right! She said it all.

Q: What's one thing about you most people don't know?

A from Maxime: One thing people don't know about us is that after every competition, Vanessa and I go for an ice cream! We made a deal this summer because ice cream is a thing she loves but she can't eat it in her plan. I decided to support her and stop eating ice cream except for when we are going together for the traditional post-competition ice cream.
Q: Describe your absolute PERFECT meal - appetizer, dinner and dessert!

A from Vanessa: A warm appetizer (because I'm always cold) followed by a good salad (pretty much any kind, it is always tasty and so refreshing). The dessert isn't part of my regular planned diet, but after a competition, as we mentioned, an ice cream is required... haha. On a regular routine, any meal that has fresh vegetables in it is just the perfect meal because it's refreshing; it tastes good. It gives me good energy and makes my body feel good.

A from Maxime: I like any kind of meat, so any meal that has been well cooked and has fresh meat is perfect for me. For dessert, I really enjoy cheesecake!

Q: What do you consider the most challenging element in pairs skating - lifts, throws, side by side jumps, twists... or something else? How have you worked to improve your consistency on it/them?

A from Vanessa: Death spirals! This is what caused me the most trouble of all the different elements. It's not related to any element of singles, which is maybe why it took me more time to learn. It also looks really easy when we watch, but it's not! Even during the practices at Nationals, I was still figuring out stuff that helped me improve the death spiral. It's a tricky one I find, especially the back inside (the one we had in the short).

A from Maxime: Side by side spins is definitely not my favorite element to work on. Everybody who did pairs knows how hard it is to time the rotation. The only way to succeed in this element is to practice again and again. When we were skating singles, we were both excellent in spins but in pairs what matters is the synchronization and the match of the positions. We have to rotate at the same speed, have the exact same positions, the same timing in the transitions of the positions, etc. and we haven't even talked about the speed. We're not even there yet. It requires good control and consistence. That element is the one I find the hardest.

Q: What do you love the most about being out on the ice?

A from Vanessa: You never get bored of skating because there are so many different elements and aspects of your skating that you can improve. It requires skill, power, strength, control, grace, fluidity, endurance... and the most rewarding thing is when you can showcase all of this in a program in competition and you can simply enjoy the moment!

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