Interview with Lisa Prenty
LISA: Would you explain last yearís programs for us?
JEFF: Last yearís programs were pretty simple. Take Five, obviously there was really no theme, it was just 100% fun, playful. Playing with the judges Ė and the audience Ė thatís just the stuff that I enjoy. The long program, Samson and Delilah, was the story as is. We try not to get too theatrical in really the story Ė itís more or less a feeling. The basic story is that Samson has this incredible strength and Delilah is sent to find out why he is so strong and seduces him. Samson falls in love and tells her that his strength is in his hair and she takes it upon herself to cut his hair and he loses his strength. While that happens, the nemesis or team that sent Delilah is trying to take over the empire. Samson realizes this and uses his last bit of strength to tear down the coliseum and kills everyone and himself in the process. So thatís why at the end of the program, I am spinning and then I fall down symbolizing death.
LISA: Regarding the Four Continents Championship Ė We appreciated your guestbook entry and the class of your statement.
JEFF: Oh, thank you. Yeah itís true, it was obviously the weirdest scenario I have ever been in.
LISA: The still shot of the look on your face when the ordinals came upÖYour face wasÖ
JEFF: In shock! Right. We could see the ordinals but I couldnít see the final result. I was reading them and trying to add them up, but they were all over the place. I had two firsts and some ordinals that were pretty low. I thought OK, I estimated maybe 4th or 5th, maybe overall a medal. So, when they announced I was first, I was in shock. I donít know whose fault that was. I think maybe it was just a fluke thing and if anything, an obvious reason why this new system might be necessary to make everything more understandable.
LISA: Are we using the new system this year?
JEFF: It is being used, which is great. Everything we went through and a lot of work went into it and it would be very frustrating if we werenít using it.
LISA: Your step sequence this year has a higher degree of difficulty? [Lots of twizzles]
JEFF: Itís true, I think everyoneís going to be stepping up to get more points.
LISA: Do you visit the site?
JEFF: I do, often. I read the guestbook and I even post in the guestbook sometimes! Definitely, I visit the website.
LISA: It must be hard to read the skating boards
JEFF: I try not to go overboard and visit the skating sites. There are always some nice things, which is good to hear, but we donít remember the nice things. The only thing we remember is the bad stuff. Itís not that I really mind anyone, especially at competitions, posting how practices are going because people are there, people are watching and they can tell themselves how things are going. Itís hard when they expect perfection or expect us to behave a certain way. Iím passionate about my skating, so if I screw up Iím going be upset. I might hit myself or I might swear but thatís just my release. Itís one thing to expect perfect performances, although no performance is perfect. Thatís what we want as well but to expect that the training and the steps to get there have to be flawless thatís not true, for any competitor.
LISA: Youíve changed your entry into the axel.
JEFF: Those were some of the changes that we made in California [see below for more details about Jeffís training time there] Ė to the axel, sal and the toe. With everything else, [Raphael Artunian] liked my technique and timing. Itís a more relaxed setup: Iím not really getting too deep into the ice and forcing the jump to happen. Itís just a little higher, a little bit more balletic and a little more comfortable.
LISA: Did David do your programs again this year?
JEFF: Yes he did.
LISA: Heís a genius.
JEFF: He really is.
LISA: Iíve had the pleasure of having a conversation with David and asked him for a quote about working with you. To this date, I have not been able to transcribe that quote because David talked about many different things. Itís very interesting to talk to him.
JEFF: Thatís just the way he works. You have to let him be the way he is. Sometimes weíll work so quickly that in a day we can get half the program done. And then sometimes he wants to talk, then Iím willing to talk and vice-versa. If I donít feel like talking or doing choreography that day, then we donít, as long as [the process] feels natural.
LISA: I think that itís a mood with him
JEFF: Yes, obviously he doesnít want me working with him if I am in a bad mood nor I with him if heís in a bad mood.
LISA: Do you get a feeling when youíre doing your programs?
JEFF: Yes, feeling or memories, things that I think about that happened in life that might fit.
LISA: Almost like a smell recognition?
JEFF: Right, thatís what music does. Music will remind me of a scenario and thatís how I perform it on the ice. I will dig into that emotion I was feeling during the music and I will let everyone see it.
LISA: Did you compete at Minto this summer?
JEFF: No Minto this year, we did it last year and in the grand scheme of things, I didnít need it. I competed so much last year that I was burnt out. My body gave up during the Grand Prix Final when I got sick; my immune system was not in great shape. It was really rough.
LISA: Was that the biggest disappointment?
JEFF: Oh absolutely, although I donít think that that in itself was the biggest disappointment, but the effects thereof were triggered by that disappointment.
LISA: Excited that Nationals will be in front of an almost-hometown crowd?
JEFF: I am! These nationals, I know I donít really need to redeem myself, just show them that last year was a special situation. Iím not proving myself to anyone but more just to let myself know that it wonít happen this year.
LISA: Goal still Olympics?
JEFF: Yes, definitely Olympics. Itís not even two years away, can you believe it?!
Jeff spent some time this spring in California training with Raphael Artunian Ė Michelle Kwanís coach. Here, he talks about his experience.
JEFF: I left in the middle of April and my mom and I drove down together, which was amazing. We didnít rush it too much, we did about 10 hours on the road each day. When I got there, I stayed with Angela Nikodinov and about a week after I was there, Ivan Dinev from Bulgaria moved in with his family. There was Ivan, his wife, his son Ivan Junior, Angela and myself. I just had such a good time. I have never really roomed or lived with other elite athletes, so it was just a great experience to see what their routine is in the morning, before they skate, after they skate and stuff like that.
LISA: Did you pick up any hints or tips from them?
JEFF: They did a lot of skating-specific workouts, like stroking on the ice with weights, so I picked that up and started doing that here in Barrie, which was great. Just so many things, like what they eat Ė it was neat to see that I was sort of on the same level in those situations. The coaching was excellent, I really liked working with Raphael. Obviously, I love working with Lee here in Barrie but itís very different with Raphael. He doesnít chase me around the ice exactly, but what he does is skate around the ice while Iím skating so Iím never really stopping. Iíll go do a jump and I will come back to him and he will tell me what he wants me to change or do. Weíre constantly moving, so by the end of the session Iím tired but at the same time I havenít given my legs a chance to get all tight. I really liked that aspect of his coaching. Heís very passionate about coaching and it transcends into the skating. If heís passionate about it and I am too, the results will show it. I think that being there for two months was kind of nice. I have never really had that kind of change: change of venue, change of faces. I started training here when I was seven. I have been here for a long time, it was time for a little change and I think that it was beneficial.
LISA: Any other ways your training has changed recently?
JEFF: Still the same with Pilates and ballet, but I am gong to be working with a personal trainer at the end of the summer. We feel I should take that step and keep my strength up.
LISA: Have you been to the States much before this trip to California?
JEFF: No not really. So I saw a ton of it, especially Nebraska. We were in Nebraska for quite a long time. I had to change a tire in the middle of the interstate, that wasnít much fun!
LISA: Did you go back and forth when you first came here?
JEFF: We camped here about twenty minutes away so we would skate here during the summer and for the winter we would go back home. In grade nine I started training here full time, I was fortunate enough that my fatherís work moved south and we were able to be here full time.
LISA: Your experience back at your home club doing a seminar?
JEFF: Yeah I actually did a seminar for Wendy Phillion and her students and Heather, whoís the other coach. It was great, I enjoyed it and I hope that the kids enjoyed it too. I think the seminar when well they have asked me back again.
LISA: What do you think about your assignments for this year?
JEFF: Obviously disappointed I didnít get NHK as an assignment. What happened as far as I know is, they pick the competitions out of a hat and thatís the order the countries get to pick the competitors in. So top six at worlds (the seated skaters) get picked first, then they pick the skaters ranked 7 through 24 maybe. Then they go to the world ranking system and I think that I was the only one on the world ranking system that was up there like 7th and was not at worlds. So, they could pick me or a lower-ranked skater and China picked first. This is the second year theyíve done it this way, it used to be by invitation and the countries would more or less choose the skaters that they wanted. I think that it got to the point where the skaters were only going to the places that they felt comfortable and the other competitions werenít getting the big names and therefore smaller audiences. I think this is a little bit more fair.
LISA: In your off-ice time, do you have much opportunity to go to movies?
JEFF: No, I donít get much chance. I try to rent a lot but I usually have $40 late fees because I forget to take them back. I recently watched Before Night Falls for the second time. The cast is awesome: Javier Bardem, Johnny DeppÖ This movieís obscure, itís amusing and dramatic.
LISA: What about recent books youíve read?
JEFF: One Iíve read that is trashy and not really educational in any way Ė but funny Ė was The Devil wears Prada. I also like trashy magazines, like Star. I donít like the ones that are ridiculously fake, like National Enquirer, but I like Star because itís more factual now but itís trashy enough that it doesnít need your full attention.
LISA: What about music?
JEFF: I still love Coldplay and Radiohead.
LISA: Did you get a chance to see Coldplay live?
JEFF: NO! I listened to them on the radio because they were doing a live feed and I was so bitter that I wasnít there.