With a name like Axel, you can't honestly be surprised he grew up to be a skating star. His parents from the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, Axel Médéric is a former French National Champion, Olympian and competitor at the World Championships, European Championships and many other international events. He also holds the distinction of being one of the very first few skaters of color competing on the world level. After turning professional in 1993, he went on to tour with Disney On Ice, win the 1997 U.S. Open Challenge Cup professional competition, skate at the Hong Kong Ocean Park and compete in the World Professional Figure Skating Championships in Jaca, Spain. A musical and artistic skater, Axel always brought something different to the ice every time he performed and he was an absolute pleasure to watch! Now retired from the sport, he took the time to answer my questions about his skating career, experiences and more:
Q: When and how did your skating career begin?
A: I started skating when I was 6 years old just because my parents neighbors had two girls the same age as my brother and I that were going ice skating for the first time on Wednesday and saturday afternoons. I went there because I just wanted to see what an ice rink would look like in real life. I had only seen ice rinks on television screens. One Wednesday afternoon, Didier Gailhaguet (now the President of the French ice skating association) was just a young figure skating coach scouting for fresh young talent to enroll in his new ice skating school. He asked me if I would like to skate every day and made me do different moves and figures on the ice. It was fun. He also asked my parents the permission to do physical tests off the ice in a stadium at the "Institut Nationale Du Sport" in Paris. He invented my parents to come to his office for a chat about my potential as a figure skater. Little to my knowledge, the following year I was changing schools and going to skate every single day! I loved it and was very excited to go to school every afternoon in downtown Paris and skate every morning. I started to get some results at a very young age in novice category, then in junior I finished 8th at the Junior Worlds and I grabbed the junior national title in 1986. Two years later, I was second at the senior Nationals and got selected to go to the 1988 Olympics in Calgary. I finished 15th overall. The following year, I was French National Champion at the age of 19.
Q: You competed at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary. What was your Olympic experience like?
A: The Calgary Olympics were the first time of my life I got to skate in a huge stadium full of a great audience supporting very single skater on the ice that day from last to first; it was an amazing spirit during the whole competition that lifted you up and made you feel like you can achieve anything on that day. It was at the same time very intimidating but very exciting and unique.
Q: Was the "Battle Of The Brian's" a media circus or a welcome distraction?
A: "The Battle Of The Brians" between Brian Boitano and Brian Orser was a great way to get even more public attention to the male figure skating events. The ladies and dance events always got so much attention but it was a great opportunity to use that to turn the spotlight on the men's event!
Q: What prompted you to turn professional?
A: After ten years on the French national team I felt like I had done all the best competitions I could (except Skate canada and Skate America) and I got a knee surgery when I was 20. It took me five years trying to get back on the top three steps of the national podium and all the best I could seem to do was finishing 5th or 4th. I felt I had still a lot to express in the sport and as I was lucky there was also a professional side to figure skating with competitions, shows and travelling tours. I was willing and able to take a chance to see the world if that was offered to me.
Q: You won the 1997 U.S. Open Challenge Cup. What are your memories of this competition?
A: Yes, I won the U.S. Open Challenge Cup, but a stupid rule of not reaching enough points overall kept me from skating in the Master Cup the next day among great champions with major exposure in the United States. I felt a great satisfaction to win and a great disappointment at the same time, specially because I did my part of the job to win. It felt like the organization and the judges just did not kept their promises towards the winner of the Challenge Cup that year.
Q: What is your current involvement in the sport?
A: I am not skating at all anymore. I just take great pleasure watching shows and competitions on TV. I don't feel like being part of the sport anymore. I just don't have time for it and I feel like I have grown out of it a bit nowadays.
Q: You were a teammate of Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay. What can you tell us about them?
A: They were nice teammates but except for 2 or 3 competitions a year and national tours in France, they were very secluded as they were practicing in Germany and were raised in Canada.
A: Debi Thomas being the first black skater to win an Olympic medal.
Q: What is one thing about you many people don't know?
A: One thing I have never hidden but maybe only people in figure skating always knew is that I am gay. I have never felt the need to come out as it never have been a problem for those that liked or loved me during my skating years. I never really cared to make a big fuss for something I've always considered as an "off the ice private matter". I am now really comfortable in my life and with who I am.
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