There's a moment in every skater's career when all of the hard work seems to culminate one magical, perfect performance that literally leaves your jaw on the floor somewhere. Emotion and a connection to the music takes over and you know that you've been witness to something truly special... and timeless. That's how I felt when I watched Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon's silver medal (and free dance winning) free dance at the 2006 World Figure Skating Championships in Calgary, Alberta and how I felt watching so many of their performances throughout their long and accomplished career. With two World medals, five Canadian titles, a Four Continents title, medals at the Grand Prix Final and eleven Grand Prix events to their credit, Dubreuil and Lauzon were top contenders at almost every event they entered for close to a decade. It was a privilege to have chance to talk to Marie-France, now a professional skater, coach, choreographer and mother, about her competitive career, motherhood, coaching and life today in this must read interview. You'll love it, mark my words!:
Q: Your career has just been incredible! Five Canadian titles, two medals at the World Championships, four medals at the Four Continents Championships (including gold in 2007) and wins at Skate Canada, the NHK Trophy and the Bofrost Cup On Ice. Looking back on your competitive career now, what moments stand out as the most special or your proudest memories of them all?
A: There were two moments in my career that made me feel like I really achieved something special. Both happened in Calgary: our first Canadian title and our first medal at Worlds. The Saddledome has been mythical for so many Canadian skaters and it was for us too.
Q: I have to say, I still find myself going back and watching your "Somewhere In Time" free dance. It's just SO beautiful! Where did the concept for this particular program come from and how did it develop to get to the incredibly high level of performance that it was at by the time of the World Championships in 2006?
A: "Somewhere In Time" was one of my favourite movies when I was younger and the first movie I cried to... probably because of the music. So, as we where looking for music for the 2006 Olympic year, I played that soundtrack for Patrice and he loved it right away. We then decided to ask our friend, famous Canadian choreographer David Wilson, to help us put it together and that's how magic happened. David doesn't normally work with ice dancers so it was sort of a gamble but we joked around thinking that if between the three of us we can't create a masterpiece... then nobody can. And we did!
Q: After such an up and down season with the injury and withdrawal in Torino and the silver medal at Worlds, you returned the following year and really dominated every competition you entered. Did you ever consider staying in until the 2010 Games in Vancouver or was it simply put time to step away?
A: 2005 to 2007 was so high in emotion and our hard work and sacrifices finally paid off during that time period. The only thing missing was an Olympic medal... but at this point I didn't enjoy training as much anymore and felt we accomplished what we wanted to do in our eligible career. Doing the Olympics in our own country would have been an awesome experience but when the heart is not there anymore it's definitely time to step away. Our previous experience taught us that you don't stay just to participate at Olympics, it's the journey there that's important and in that regard we feel that we've done it all.
Q: Not only are you and Patrice skating partners, you're married, you're parents and you coach and choreograph together. Not many people get to have that experience of getting to share their love of skating with the person they love! How do you balance your personal life with your life in the sport?
A: Balance is like happiness. You work at it all your life! I prefer to focus on what makes me joyful and complete. Long ago we decided to do skating at a level very few people reach and we decided to do the same with coaching. We dedicate a lot of time to our job but we are very passionate people and we couldn't do it any other way. When our daughter Billie-Rose showed up in our lives, she became our priority but from the beginning she also became part of our figure skating life. We toured while I was pregnant and at only seven months she was with me on Battle Of The Blades. Right away, she loved the artistry of figure skating. Billie-Rose is not even four and gives us her opinion on music and movements! She's very instinctive and a little artist in the making so I do take her opinion tenderly and seriously.
Q: Speaking of coaching, you've got an incredible roster of students right now including Sara Hurtado and Adrià Díaz, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron and Elisabeth Paradis and Francois-Xavier Ouellette. What is your philosophy as a coach and how rewarding is it to see your coaching pay off in the results these incredible ice dancers have been getting lately?
A: I learned so much in my career. I was blessed with wonderful coaches and mentors that made us grow not only as skaters but also as people. My goal as a coach is to make my skaters reach their full potential as athletes AND as individuals so they can stand strong on their two feet on and off the ice.
Q: You've done some pretty amazing things as a professional skater including touring with Stars On Ice and appearing on three seasons of Battle Of The Blades where you skated into the top three with your hockey player partners ALL THREE TIMES! This December, you went to Illinois to skate in the Shall We Dance On Ice show with skaters like Davis and White, Anissina and Peizerat, Belbin and Agosto and Sinead and John Kerr. Is touring or competing professionally something you'd do if the opportunity arised or are shows your preference?
A: I am a natural performer and always will be. My career as a performer is more or less over but once in a while when my agent has an interesting offer that can be worked around my coaching schedule, I do it. Shall We Dance was a great concept and I was thrilled to be a part of this show and to skate one more time with my husband. Patrice and I hadn't performed together in five years so we tried to enjoy ourselves and disconnect from our coaching duties for two days.
A: Champagne and oysters to start followed by maple wild salmon with organic salad and vegetables! Sorbet and berries for dessert or maybe Patrice's famous gluten free brownies.
Q: Who are your three favourite skaters (or ice dance teams) of all time and why?
A: Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov were my absolute favourites. As competitors, they were great. Perfect classical lines and effortless speed but to me as professional skaters they reached a level of artistry and intimacy in their already perfect skating that will probably never be matched. Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean because their skating is smart. Brilliant and intricate with a perfect understanding of the blade movement on the ice. Needless to say, Christopher's work is phenomenal! I would love to borrow his brain during any choreography session. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir because they are a mix of my two favourite teams. Beautiful lines, great technique, effortless skating and a real connection between them that makes you forget they're on skates. On top of that, they're the nicest people you'll ever meet!
Q: What's one thing most people don't know about you?
A: Music has a lot of influence on my mood and I listen to a wide variety through out the day. Hip hop in the morning to pump me up as I drive to the rink, classical music or jazz when I drive back home to relax and disconnect from coaching and hard rock when I clean the house!
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