James rewrites history books
Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès made history as they became the first French European pairs skating champions in 87 years after a stunning display in Minsk, Belarus.
Bermudian James and her partner Ciprès, representing France, helped the nation to their first European gold since 1932 when the husband-and-wife team of Andrée Brunet and Pierre Brunet won in Paris.
The pair built on their overnight short-programme lead of nearly three points to defeat two-times defending champions, Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of Russia.
James and Ciprès scored 149.11 with a near-flawless free skate for a total of 225.66 as they stayed unbeaten in a breakout season for the experienced pair, who also previously won both the Grand Prix Final and French Elite Skating Championships last month.
Tarasova and Morozov won the gold medal the past two seasons but had to settle for silver, scoring a total 218.82 after a costly mistake on a jump combination, while in their first season at senior level, the Russian pair of Alexandra Boikova and Dmitry Kozlovsky overtook Italy’s Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise in the free skate to take bronze by just 0.14 points with an overall total of 205.28.
As the news came through that Tarasova and Morozov had not scored enough for gold, Ciprès collapsed on to the floor while James shook with emotion as the pair looked visibly overwhelmed.
“It is a dream come true. We’ve dreamt of that for ever. I am so happy and proud, I can’t even find words to express how much,” said James, who was born in Ontario, Canada, but lived in Bermuda until the age of 10 when her family moved to Virginia, speaking to the Eurosport website.
“We were just waiting to see what the score was at the end because you just never know. They are all just such strong competitors and have such great elements in their routines.
“We didn’t skate necessarily the cleanest programme and there was a little mistake but thankfully we did enough and we are just so overwhelmed.
“We’re so pleased to have skated like this, I am so happy and proud.”
Reflecting on their success Ciprès added: “We sacrificed so much and did so many efforts. It was a dream when we were children to be here one day.
“It’s a moment of joy that I really want to share with the whole team, the federation, my family and my friends. We finally made history and we’re so proud.
“We’ll keep going to hopefully win more titles.”
James and Ciprès, who have been competing together since 2010, will be aiming to build on their latest triumph at the World Figure Skating Championships which will be held in Saitama, Japan, from March 18.
James, a former Mount St Agnes pupil James, whose twin sister Melissa, is also a figure skater, is confident their golden moment in Minsk will hold them in good stead in Japan as she hailed the advantage of her longstanding partnership with Ciprès in the face of retirement speculation.
“It’s very promising going into the world championships,” she said. “Our performance [in Minsk] is a season’s best and we’re very happy. I think it comes with experience.
“We are a team that’s been skating for eight years now. I think with a little bit of mileage and more experience getting a few medals has helped.
“I think any team needs time and experience knowing how to compete. We look different. We’re not the regular pair team.
“We are very happy indeed that we didn’t stop, but kept skating because we finally accomplished our dream after I don’t know how many years.”
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