Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Spotlight On Laetitia Hubert


Ask your run of the mill skating fan who Laetitia Hubert is and the run of the mill story you'll hear goes something like this: "OH YEAH! In 1992 in Albertville she skated a wonderful short program and fell seventeen times or something like that in the free skate and they called her The Human Zamboni. Get it? Human Zamboni?" 


That vignette has been passed down as through skating history but the fact of the matter is that there is so much more to this French star's story than one memorable implosion. Laetitia Hubert joined an elite club of skaters when she competed at four consecutive Winter Olympic Games in 1992, 1994, 1998 and 2002. In a career spanning two decades, the French firecracker competed at nine World Championships, seven European Championships, won two French national titles and entering countless international competitions, showcasing her incredible power, avant garde style and competitive spirit in every one of her outings.


They say the skaters we remember are not always the ones to win the gold medals, and Laetitia certainly exemplified this statement. As touched on earlier, with a flawless original program at the 1992 Olympics in her home country, her skating certainly caught the media and skating community's eyes and came into the international consciousness. Although she faltered with a disastrous free skate effort at those Games, she rebounded to finish fourth at the following World Championships. She went on to finish in the top ten at the World Championships four more times including another fourth place finish in 1998 - right after another disastrous Olympic setback. Detect a theme here?




Although at times inconsistent, Laetitia's trademark speed and very original and edgy programs spanned everything from the music of Dead Can Dance to "The Last Emperor" soundtrack, classical and tango music, jazz, movie soundtracks and even her iconic 1998/1999 free skate where she portrayed a prostitute on drugs. She was never afraid of trying new things or taking risks, attacking triple/triple combinations at a time many competitors were labouring with triple/doubles. 




One of Laetitia's greatest challenges was at home. Although she won her pair of French national titles in 1998 and 1999, 
she was competing in an era where there was an incredible amount of depth in French ladies skating. Surya Bonaly and Vanessa Gusmeroli - world medallists both - and other talented skaters such as Marie-Pierre Leray gave her a run for money at every turn. She was phased less than she was painted as being phased though. A win at the 1997 Trophee Lalique Grand Prix event in her home country over Tara Lipinski just months before Tara won her Olympic title, certainly showcased her potential and if you sit down and watch most of her performances during her final season as an "amateur" skater in 2002, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by how she didn't quit when the going got tough as she did at the 1998 Nagano Games.

One of my greatest joys - as a huge fan of this skater AND Liz Manley - was seeing BOTH of them perform for the first time in years at the 2011 Caesar's Tribute show. Joining them were such skating stars as Nicole Bobek and Yuka Sato. It was certainly a great throwback to a different era.




What made Laetitia Hubert the kind of skater I still remember and absolutely still adore watching was the fire in her, even after so many rough skates. She had something special in her, she knew it, and she never gave up. Laetitia is now married, coaches in Albertville, France, is a technical specialist and still performs occasionally. Not nearly enough as far as I'm concerned!

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