with Peter Grütter – Neuchâtel, December 20, 2003
Could you please introduce yourself: Where you come from, when you started skating, what kind of career you had?
quite a while ago. (laughs) I'm originally from Berne (Switzerland) and in
the 1950's I competed for the Schlittschuhclub Berne (SCB) skating club. I
stopped in 1964 after participating at the Olympic Games in Innsbruck.
didn't notice Stéphane. When he was nine he wanted to train with me. At
that time I had a very good Turkish skater and Stéphane said to his
mother that he would love to work with the coach of this Turkish skater in
Geneva. And since Stéphane's family lives in Saxon and there were no
possibilities for him to practice, he had to go to Sion or Villars from
when he was little, so he was used to travel. Stéphane and his mother
introduced themselves to me and I saw right away that he was incredibly
talented. I saw that he was skating with his heart and his soul. When he
was ten or eleven, judges already told him that they would see him one day
at the World Championships. So that already started when he was really
little and since then he has improved unbelievably without having a real
role model. That means this Turkish skater soon stopped training with me.
She had the feeling she wasn't No.1 anymore, so she left.
traveling of course is enormous. We calculated once that he has to cover
up to 1200 km (746 miles) per week, first with his mother who drove him in
her car, then, when he was old enough, by train and now unfortunately
in his own car. Unfortunately, because that also stresses and tires him.
In the train he could do his homework and relax a little; he can't do that
weakness is his impatience but he knows that. During puberty it was even
worse of course. Then we clashed from time to time. I let him get away
with things I wouldn't let others because I knew he'd give everything
again. If he was such a twit, he wouldn't be able to do all that, so you
have to bite your tongue and turn a blind eye because I know it's for a
good reason. Stéphane puts a lot in and has a good attitude. He's got a
good head on his shoulders and that is the important thing. He can't be
compulsively ambitious, which he isn't. He just wants to do good work, to
improve. But he also accepts others who do good work and that is
I always go on the ice because I said to myself that the day I won't be able to put on my skates anymore, I would quit. This is just our way of coaching; we skate alongside so we can observe the jumps. When Stéphane comes to training, he first warms up and then we get on pretty quickly. He takes care of the difficult elements and the programs right away. That way we never lose a lot of time. He is lucky; he doesn't have to repeat the relatively easy jumps a hundred times, so he can concentrate on the quad and the triple axel. Others have to work on their triples again and again and with Stéphane this is not the case. He probably trains much less than others in this category.
actually never talk about goals. We never say that we want to achieve this
or that ranking. Stéphane will imagine it for himself, just like I do,
but we never talk about it because I don't want to stress him even more
since he is already stressed enough with Matura (final exams) and
traveling back and forth. I don't talk about goals with any of my
students. We just try to do our best because the rankings we achieve do
not only depend on us. They also depend on what the others do. But we
never know what they'll do. There are skaters who skate very well but
don't make it to the top because there are always even better skaters. Or
you skate badly and the others even worse and you are among the top
have strong memories of the European Championships in Lausanne. One week
before the competition, Stéphane wasn't in good shape at all. I even
thought about not letting him participate. But as we remember he skated
amazingly there. That day I thought somebody must have had a hand in it;
it must have been some kind of magic. Shortly before, Jack Gerschwiler and
another figure skating coach, who Stéphane really liked, had died. Stéphane
had a very good relationship with both of them. I then thought that these
two might have been in on it from above. I just thought that and Stéphane
spoke it out loud. I was fascinated that he had said what I had thought.
That actually happens very often but this was probably the most remarkable
These were two skating highlights.
once had a very special experience with Stéphane when he was twelve years
old. We were driving by car to a competition in The Hague. Stéphane had
never been in Holland before and I never by car. After crossing the border
in Belgium, I had to look for the right way. Stéphane then told me which
way I had to take, he was my co-pilot. I asked him why he knew all that
and he said that it had been written on the invitation. Those were really
difficult names, hardly pronounceable. Shortly after, we arrived at the
hotel and later on at the rink. He
read all that when he was a little boy, he knew which way to take and I
would have had to stop and ask a hundred times. That made me realize that
Stéphane was not only a great skater but also very intelligent. I
remember that experience very well.
I have four boys, Stéphane included, and some more girls. All in all I have about 12 skaters who participate at the Swiss Championships. And then I have some little ones who participate at regional championships.
is a new talent, a young girl who was Swiss Champion in the
"Minis" last year and this year in the "Espoirs". She
will now move up to the "Novices". And then there is a young boy who won in the "Espoirs"
and will now move up to the "Novices". Those two and some others who are
really promising. I'm having a lot of fun with my little ones.
winter, I am at competitions every weekend; I am actually always on the
road. After the men's Long Program at European or World Championships I
have to go back because there is mostly a competition going on at home on
weekends. But that doesn't bother me. The only thing that is a pity at
competitions is that you do not really get the feeling of a competition.
If I watched them at home on TV, I would see a lot more. You're always
standing around in the hallway and you can follow the whole thing only on
a small TV. You don't know what the atmosphere among the public is.
now the atmosphere has been great everywhere, above all for Stéphane. For
example two years ago in Paris at the Trophée Lalique or a few weeks ago
in Moscow. He's never performed in Russia before but the people knew him
already. This is probably thanks to Eurosport which is represented very
well throughout Europe. When you show up with Stéphane you can be sure
that people will watch.
For Stéphane it is very good. It is designed for him.
All his qualities stand out. I am glad that it is coming because the run
on even more jump rotations will stop and after a little while we will
have more artistic skaters again. I think it will be more exciting. I hope
it will be better for the ladies, too, that they will stop asking for the
same from them as from the men. That is a reason why the men's competition
is more interesting, because, in my opinion, the ladies are still
overtaxed. Before they reach puberty it still works out but afterwards not
anymore and I believe that this is the reason the number of spectators is
dropping. But this will soon change, it has to!