Que Péra Péra: French Figure Skating In The Seventies

Exhausted as I am from the whirlwind virtual tour of French figure skating history on Skate Guard this week? Never fear, more is here. You're going to have to stock up on MORE wine, MORE cheese and use your imagination to take you back to the Eiffel Tower in the days of discothèque because part four of this series takes us to the not so distant past that predated the rise to popularity of French skaters like Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay, Philippe Candeloro, Laetitia Hubert, Surya Bonaly and Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat in the nineties... to figure skating in France in the seventies which proved to be an absolutely FASCINATING time full of familiar faces!


In 1968, Patrick Péra had followed in the footsteps of two Frenchmen who had each won World titles in the sixties: Alain Giletti and Alain Calmat. He won the Olympic bronze medal that year at the Grenoble Olympics and would go on to win three European and World medals and a second Olympic medal at the 1972 Games in Sapporo. North American audiences seem to unfortunately know so little about him. There's quite a bit TO know in fact. In the late sixties, Péra actually became involved with former skater and renowned designer Vera Wang, who moved to Paris, enrolled at the University Of Paris-Sarbonne and had a brief relationship with him before returning to New York City in 1970. Péra was coached by the legendary Jacqueline Vaudecrane, who herself was a two time French Champion in the thirties and a former student of The Brunet's. He was sent to New York City to train with his coach's former coach Pierre Brunet for a time, bringing three generations of French skaters together in doing so. Today, he's a successful banker in Milan, Italy.


Anne Sophie de Kristoffy, who won three French ladies titles from 1978 to 1980 became one of the country's best known skating commentators, covering the sport on TF1 as a journalist before taking over the direction of TF1 in 2008.


In 1974 and 1975, France's men's champion was none other than Didier... yes, that Didier... Gailhaguet, the perennial President of France's Federation that last year was elected for yet another term despite a challenge from Olympic Gold Medallist Gwendal Peizerat for the throne. Another embattled name from French figure skating who would join Gailhaguet in standing on the French podium in the seventies was 'the French judge' Marie-Reine Le Gougne, who won the bronze medal in the ladies event in both 1975 and 1977.


After winning two French titles in the late sixties with Fabienne Etlensperger, Jean-Roland Racle won another five more French pairs titles with two more partners: Florence Cahn and Pascale Kovelmann. Why does the name Jean-Roland Racle stand out? Racle turned to coaching in Boulogne-Billancourt and was the longtime coach of Laetitia Hubert as well as a coach to Sarah Abitbol and Stephane Bernadis and Line Haddad and Sylvain Prive. He has also held various roles in the FFSG (French Federation) over the years.

No rundown of the names, names, names of French figure skating in the seventies would be complete without mention of Muriel Boucher-Zazoui. The famous French ice dance coach was herself a competitive ice dancer and won three French titles with former partner Yves Malatier beforing turning to coaching and working with such fabulous ice dance teams as Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat, Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder, Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat and Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon.

Stay tuned for the final part of this series on French skating history VERY soon - it's certainly a grand finale to say the very least!

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