Collapse of Joubert's Olympics bid shocks France

TURIN, Feb 17, 2006 (AFP) - French Olympic hope Brian Joubert's collapse in the men's figure skating final in Turin has left the nation and his former coach shell shocked on Friday.

Over 10 million French people tuned in on Thursday night to watch Joubert's bid to challenge for France's first Olympic singles gold medal at the Palavela.

The 21-year-old from Poitiers in western France had been close to a podium finish after sitting fourth in the short programme.

But after touching down on his opening quad toeloop jump and stumbling through his free skate to Lord of the Dance, Joubert fell to a sixth-place finish.

"I fought all the way through the programme. I tried a triple and a quad, but with the new judging system I wasn't rewarded," complained Joubert.

Former coach Veronique Guyon, who trained the young Joubert from aged four to 19, said she was shocked by the fall from grace of a skater who two years ago had been a potential Olympic champion.

Joubert was one of only two skaters to have defeated Yvegeny Plushenko in the past four years when he dethroned the Russian to take the 2004 European title. He was world silver medallist behind Plushenko the same year.

But since then his results have deteriorated. He was sixth at last year's world championships and has taken the silver and bronze at the last two European championships respectively.

"I'm not surprised," Guyon told AFP from her home in Poitiers Friday.

"It's a total waste of all his talent. But when you can't stay on your feet, when you lose your technique, you lose your head.

"His results have been in freefall for some time and he still doesn't change anything in the way he thinks or competes.

"Knowing how to jump was enough under the old system. When I offered to help him change his training methods to help his expression, his spins, and footwork to adapt to the new system which requires a more all-round athlete he refused outright. Since then he has lost his technique and confidence."

Guyon blamed Joubert's link with former French skating federation chief Didier Gailhaguet, who was banned for three years for his part in the 2002 Olympic voting scandal, for the break down in their relationship.

Gailhaguet, is not allowed on the Olympic sites, but is in Turin in his capacity as an advisor to Joubert.

"I didn't want to work with a certain Mr. Gailhaguet, who doesn't have a good mentality," she said.

Guyon also slammed the young Frenchman's arrogance and his recent derogatory comments about his rivals.

"You have to recognise when you aren't good. Not to accuse the judges, the points system or your rivals.

"With me, when he thought he was the best I made sure to teach him a lesson and he always bounced back.

"His entourage have their heads buried in the sand. Someone has to tell him to his face. He's no good and no one tells him so."

Guyon believes it could be too late for Joubert to bounce back at the world championships, but that he could not be ruled out in the future.

"He can't get any worse. It's in a month's time, it doesn't give him much time to improve. But he's a born competitor. He won his first competition aged six. The problem is that now psychologically he's a broken man. He's no longer mentally strong," said Guyon.

Copyright AFP


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