Friday, August 16, 2013

2013 Shanghai Slalom Open (Stream of Thoughts)

The UNOFFICIAL backstage experience of my umpteenth trip to China*...

For more journalistic write-ups on the competition itself, check out the REPORT TRILOGY on by yours truly:

THU. AUG. 1st : Traveling.

After a 19-hour trip: two planes with a four-hour stop in Dubai --excluding the Bordeaux-Paris train of the previous day, the hour of metro to get to the airport and the two-hour wait to board... and the hour of bus to get from Shanghai airport to the hotel...
AFTER A 19-HOUR TRIP (I don't count the extra, it's too depressing) I'M IN SHANGHAI!

Let's not complain, though: I experienced a long flight in BUSINESS CLASS for the first time in my life. I had already been upgrated once, but for a short trip and didn't enjoy it much. But I could have had champagne if ever I had drunk alcohol.....

I had the chance to be upgraded for my Paris-Dubai flight, in a brand-new Airbus A380-800. I couldn't help myself taking random pictures of everything around me. Very exciting! I had a good dinner and a good (short) night sleep, which I resumed on the marble floor of the airport waiting for my next plane: From utter luxury to homeless style.
I was back with the populace on my Dubai-Shanghai flight. Watched the 1967 Bonnie and Clyde with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty on a small screen, ate half of my unrefined meal, slept on my uncomfy seat and watched Oz the Great and Powerful, which was a perfect compromise with no thinking needed for my tired brains at that time of night/day (delete as appropriate).

FRI. AUG. 2nd : Flashback.

10:44AM. Alarm didn't ring. Must have been too exhausted at 3AM when I decided to set it. Hopefully got awaken by people talking pretty loud in the street. Meeting in the lobby at 11:00 for lunch, perfect timing.
Walking to the restaurant. A real hammam outside. May have enjoyed it without the cars honking, bikes squeaking up and down the road, brakes screeching, food smells, dusty front windows, electric wires entangled above my head, rusty public bins saying 'love your homeland', passers-by with shirts rolled up to their chests to air their bellies (Chinese fashion)...

Ate white steamed rice and greens. And a bit of egg and mouth-watering watermelon but in looks only. Chatted a bit with people I hadn't seen in ages. Tried: too jetlagged to talk!

Next stop: the COMPETITION AREA, the same as usual.
Awoke deeply burried memories of worst competition experience. Ever.
2007 SSO FLASHBACK – Am sick after having picked up the wrong seafood at the opening ceremony buffet of the previous day. Puking my intestines out... Time to go to the speed slalom competition, though. Asking Naomi to tell the judges I'm on my way.
Am on time at 2:00, wave hello-I-m-here to the judges, they wave back, put my skates on, warm-up has just ended. Competition starts with time trials. The girls follow one another on the start line, then the circle is complete and they go for their second try.
Think you forgot me”
I said to the judge. “Nope you're not on the list.” “Yes I'm here” pointing at my name. “But you didn't get your name ticked when entering the area.” (thinking: Are you f'n kidding me, dude?!) “You had the info I was coming and you waved hello back when I did. Plus, I have my name tag around my neck and my number pinned on my thigh, I registered weeks ago on the internet and confirmed it yesterday at the hotel.” “Yep. But your name's not checked. Sorry.” (thinking: Go to hell.)
My theory: there were 97% of Chinese girls and I had all my chances to blow them up. Judge was Chinese........ must have been quite convenient.
As a conclusion, let's mention that I hadn't come to China for nothing as I was allowed to take part in the Classic freestyle comp' which was probably the worst performance of my career as I was 1) still a bit sick and 2) totally pissed off – not very compatible with a slippery floor when you need to let off the steam. I fell twice, maybe thrice. Wanted to kung-fu kick that judge in the teeth with my aluminum 7000 frame. Bare frame. WITH THE WHEELS OFF.
Recalling the episode kept me busy for a while, sitting cross-legged on the side of the cone lines, with freestylers busy freestyling, all blurry behind my vision of a passed time. A few friends came and greeted me. Kim Sung Jin was there, just to enjoy the show and the company. I signed a few autographs, agreed to a couple of fan photos, got bored and decided to go back to the hotel to work a bit.

I asked a volunteer to take me home, we made a detour to the officials quarters where most of the judges were busy geeking on their tablets. I GOT GIVEN MY JUDGE OUTFIT OF THE EVENT. White. White non-breathable tracksuit trousers with orange bands on the sides. Size XL (men's of course). Touches of pink on my Men's L-size polo shirt for Saturday and touches of blue on my Men's M-size polo shirt for Sunday. Wonder which one we'll get the chance to wear twice on Monday!

On the way back to the hotel, I came across a stunning long legged blond woman with high heel shoes and a little black dress. Probably Russian. Not much to say about it except that she didn't match the landscape. A few meters further, a Chinese spotted an abandonned cigarette on the pavement, bent to pick it up, examined it, and went on his way, pulling a lighter out of his pocket. BACK TO REAL LIFE.
Update: Same menu as for lunch with little variation. Watermelon is not so bad after all.
Most of the skaters have arrived now.
Went to the judge meeting at 7PM. A lot of talking about rule improvements, for the upcoming competition and for the new ruleset. New judge polos delivery. The design is better, not the size. You can't have it all!

SAT. AUG. 3rd : Competition DAY 1

taking on the lame tourist cliché
6:10AM. Alarm clock buzzing. Quickly got up and packed up, had to jump on the coach to go to the opening ceremony on the Bund of Shanghai. Didn't have breakfast. Begged for some Oreos on the way, a safe European food bet.
The area was settled on the river banks, a great view if it was not for the army of flags set for the occasion and representing all the countries attending the competition. Blocking the sight. Blocking the Pearl Tower and the business district. A shame. Really.
Was designated as judge representative to march out (in wonderful outfit) with all the other country representatives. Included: standing in the burning sun, politely waiting for the Chinese welcome speeches (and their English translations) to end.
The event started with pair freestyle (which I judged. Like all the competitions except slides.) Once finished, we were driven back to the hotel where we could rest for an hour before lunch.
Watermelon is quite tasty in the end!
Speed slalom time trials. Was the last cone judge --an unrewarding task as nothing ever happens there. We took turns with a colleague: He checked the 1st runs, I checked the 2nds. First shift ok, second shift... I stumbled on the table out of exhaustion. He insisted on me having a power-nap and judged the end of it. So kind! Enabled me to reload a little energy for the upcoming junior classic judging.

Girls category. Dinner break. Definitely loving watermelon. Boys category. Judge meeting. Bed-time.

SUN. AUG. 4th : Competition DAY 2

6:50AM. Waking up! Had to be at the competition venue for 7:30 as the women's final phases of the Speed KO Systems started at 8:00. Made a quick stop at the restaurant for breakfast. Dude, where's the waterlemon? HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO SURVIVE?! Had some fatty pasta and fatty rice over which my stomach complained all morning.

Morning dedicated to speedslalom (still last cone judge, plus writing write-ups in-between the rounds) afternoon to senior classic, incl. some very cool performances in the men's as in the women's! And evening to slides which I didn't enjoy as I was writing the part.2 of the report trilogy.
Note: THOSE TRACKSUIT TROUSERS ARE ITCHY. Can't concentrate on the judging and scratch my thighs at the same time. Have to make a crucial choice: either being in harmony with the judging team for a more professional looks, or ensuring more focus on the competitors for a more professional judging. Finished with baggie pants on.

MON. AUG. 5th : Competition DAY 3

Battle day. Had to be on spot for 7:30AM again, battle checking at 7:45 and kick-off at 8:00. Women's and Men's qualifiers for last ranked skaters, then the real thing started.
The level was so high that it was often hard to decide between the skaters. Who should pass, who should be kicked-off? Broke my heart to dismiss too early some of them who had made awesome pure freestyle performances. That's the law: battle is about heavy trick combos...

Finished almost on time. Greetings, podiums, photos (took one of me with Guo Fang wearing a t-shirt with me on. Ultimate radness), judge debrief, dinner, hotel.

Came across some European skaters having a before-after-party in the lobby, told me to join them to that SUPER SELECT CLUB CALLED M2. Had my flight at 7:15AM but hey, why not: At least I will have “visited” a bit! Shower, bag packing, chatting in the lobby, finally moving.

Clubbing, free drinks, dancers/singers on the podiums, live electro mix, impressive setting. (anybody took pictures?) Couldn't help wondering what it would have been like with a bunch of rollergirls in the place, I confess...

Left quite early, tried to explain to the receptionist at the hotel that a taxi should pick me up at 4:45 for the airport. Fail. I'll improvise. Shower and a little 3-hour nap.

TUE. AUG. 6th : Travel back.

Was on time to check out in the lobby at 4:30. A volunteer from the competition organization was waiting for me (relieving surprise). He called the taxi that was reserved for me and off I went to the airport, enjoying the sunset over Shanghai!

First plane, stuck in a row of three in-between two huge black guys. TESTED AND DISAPPROVED. Not comfy.
Had three hours to spend at Dubai Airport... and must have spent 2 hours out of the 3 wondering wether or not I should buy a pair of Raybans at the duty free. Didn't in the end, but it kept me busy.
Second plane, stuck at the window seat. I like better being in the alley. Watched the end of Stoker, the movie I had started in the first plane, then Django Unchained (awesomely awesome), Hitchcock (quite cool), and After Effect (don't lose 2 hours on it.)
RER, metro, wearing my sunglasses at night, and arrived AT LAST, at Jim's where I spent the night.

WED. AUG. 7th : The last straight line.

My train to Bordeaux was at 10:23. Left with Jim to enjoy a little umbrella in the pouring rain. Rejoycing myself in walking along the platform: In 3 hours and 30 minutes I'm HOME.
Train started up. A few minutes later... *BOOM*.
Everything plunged into darkness. No more power. Train stopped. Heavy rain kissing the window panes. Voice announcing: “The train just had an important breakdown, we are following the instructions on the failure manual. Will let you know asap about the evolution of the situation.” 
In short: it's bad.

Waitingwaitingwaiting. A few other announcements, killing my hopes more and more. “We will return to the nearest train station for a mechanics to repair the system for the train to go back the the initial station. Then you will swap trains, a new one will be chartered for you on the same platform.”
Still, given the (too many) train accidents lately, I was willing to suffer the long wait in silence... impatience isn't worth a life: Fix the problem for good!

We lost 2 hours. Arrived just on time to go to my workout training session!

* Anyway, I'm being cynical and I'm complaining for the sake of blogging. But I'm aware of how lucky I am to have the chance to travel the world, judge such quality freestyle, enjoy the organization and simply BE PART OF IT ALL: Always glad I went in the end!
Each f'n time. Never regretted once.
Even the WORST.



  1. I have become excited on seeing the competition day coming. I can understand the level of adrenaline in your body since you were the competitor. Nice to read about your experience. Keep sharing!

    Arnold Brame

    1. I was judging, not competing. I had my share of freestyle competitions (10 years!)
      Skating regards, Koz!