Thursday, November 28, 2013

2013 WFSC World Champs UNCENSORED

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


speaker to the left of me, stage to the right,
here I am, stuck in the middle with food ♫

The 7th WFSC were held in Taipei from November 5 to 8, 2013, at the second level of an arena also hosting the 58th WORLDS of ARTISTIC SKATING at the first level. We were treated to a common OPENING CEREMONY, or should I say : We were tolerated, on our third day of competition, to attend the Artistic's opening ceremony, which was convenient as we added national flags to their list of participating countries. All the freestyle banners had been previously removed and no freestyle VIP was invited to get on the stage where were sitting the Artistic officials.

We also had the opportunity of sharing a COMMON BUFFET at dinner on our first day of
competition... which turned into a shameless (or shameful, depending on the end you place yourself) karaoke night for artistic skating VIPs. The least to say is that the shock of cultures was hardcore. Nevertheless, it was an interesting insight into the various levels of socially acceptable behaviours according to the different cultures. More practically, having to endure 60-year-olds bellowing Asian songs out of tune and wiggling on a stage 2 meters from me and my plate tends to put me off my food.

Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir? ♫
However, I should not criticize too much as I found myself in a similar position at the freestyle after party, where I was asked to go up on a stage and sing with a cover band.
Singer: "What do you want to sing?"
Me: "Don't know, it's not like it was planned..."
Singer: "You're French? Wait, we've got the perfect song for you!"


I arrived one day later than initially planned. I had a very short timing and I had to split the difference. I had confirmed my coming to the 2013 WFSC as an OFFICIAL SCORING JUDGE more than 6 months ago and I would not have missed it. First because I had made a commitment, and second because I still wish to continue existing in this world of freestyle. It is part of who I have become and I cannot just leave it all behind.

Several months later, during the summer, I tried out for the FRENCH TEAM of ROLLER DERBY and made it. Soon after, the first team training was planned almost at the same dates as the WFSC. No way I could not miss it either.

I left the Team France training in Clermont-Ferrand on Saturday evening, slept in Paris to hop into the Taiwan plane on Sunday at noon. With the flight connections and the jetlag, I arrived on Monday afternoon in Taipei City, missing the Sunday Team France scrimmage on the one hand, and the Monday judge meeting on the other hand.
Hopefully, Naomi had taken useful (decorated) notes of the debates, incl. which shirt color to wear according to the days; the confirmation that food would be provided every day; the judges' arrival time at the competition venue (conveniently just on the other side of the street): 45 min before the competitors i.e. 7:15AM to the max every morning; and other random facts concerning the unfolding of the speed slalom competition, details on classic judging and focus on accurate ranking, etc.


Should do. Will do? MUST do!
I arrived at the Taipei Airport and immediately found the volunteer waiting for me -- a situation I often dread to experience: getting lost in an unknown airport at the other end of the world with no phone number to contact. It is less about the getting lost than the dealing with a complex situation with a mashed brain due to the [ jetlag + endless trip ] equation.

The volunteer got me in a taxi with the address of the hotel I was booked in on a piece of paper, together with junior artistic skaters. It took us an hour to get there, which was a perfect timing for me to finish the movie I had started watching on my laptop during my second flight, a 1:30 flight from Shanghai in a plane that was obviously not equipped with individual screens. Let's mention that I was particularly not excited beforehand about the Paris-Taipei trip, as I had to wait for 5 long hours in Shanghai to change planes (which is, as mentioned above, only 1:30 away from the final destination). Finally it was for the best, the chairs of the airport being more comfy than the economy class seats of the plane. I could enjoy a short morning sleep.


The taxi dropped me at the Capital Hotel facing the Sports Arena. I got to the reception with my 23.9 kg luggage and held out my (brand-new) passport (last one was full) to the receptionist. After a few minutes I understood that I was not on the lists. (Remember what I was saying about situations that involve thinking after long flights? There we were.) Let's note that the hotel address was provided by the volunteer at the airport, who was convinced that I was a judge for the Artistic Worlds (oh my!) A different address from the one I was given by the Freestyle organization a couple of weeks ago by e-mail...

I decided to head towards the other hotel (the e-mail hotel) with my heavy luggage, my sleepy brain and my empty stomach. It was on the same road, but still further than I thought and I received great help from a stranger to whom I asked my way, who led me to the place and even translated while I explained the situation to the receptionist. That must be the difference between Taipei and China. People are not afraid to help and try to communicate despite the language barrier. The woman checked on her lists and – GUESS WHAT? I was not on them either. She called the previous hotel who confirmed I was booked. *banging head on reception desk*

Back to square one in the damp heat of November. If I could have drawn a comic strip bubble above the head of the Capital receptionist seeing me entering the lobby, it would have been full of “WTF?!” and “???” and “...” Hopefully a colleague of hers, who seemed more aware of the plans, just dug out a list she had forgotten to check, and – GUESS WHAT? I was there from the very start. Relief. I was already picturing myself in the shower of my luxurious gigantic double king-bed room which I was sharing with Naomi.


"Introducing the new judges collection by Kozmictrino. Distilling two decades of
compulsive winning into a one size fits-all championships ensemble.
Designed by judges, worn by judges. Never have your scores challenged again." Trino
We were given our judge outfits in the evening. SAME itchy plastic non-breathable white and orange tracksuit pants as in Shanghai this summer (and from the horse's mouth, same as in Lishui on the previous week). Left-overs most certainly. Of course NOT matching the tops, blue polos on days 1 and 3, red on days 2 and 4, plus sports jackets with a 'pikachu' cut (size S goes down to my upper thighs).

We could not resist a fashion photoshoot in the hotel room! The composition of each shot was carefully thought in advance, the selfies in the mirror, the lame badass non-smiling faces, the retro pauses, the captions... the final effect is pretty close to what we were trying to achieve.


Speed Slalom Revisited.
SPEED SLALOM. Yes it is as much a performance as the ones we are judging. I lost count of the number of speed starts I took as a following judge. Still I remember quite well my off-guard moment during the senior men's KO system. In my defense, I was just back from 4 days of intensive training on quad skates. I heard the starting beep and forgot I had no toe stops on my slalom skates... Hopefully the skater did a false start and the run started over.

CLASSIC FREESTYLE. The classic competition was lighter than usual (for me) as I only judged four categories out of five. I was exempted of the senior women's, a salutary break. I judged 83 classic performances, which means assessing each skater's level, giving them scores for the different technical and artistic criteria they are judged on, and comparing them to ensure that the ranking remains coherent. I deplore the lack of time we have. Indeed the five of us scoring judges have to give the skaters' provisory ranking immediately after their runs, which leaves us about 1 min to decide. It works well for categories up to 25 skaters, but for bigger ones, which mainly concerns the senior men's at each competition, the exercise becomes very tricky. We are in a constant rush and those are not ideal conditions. I do think that the rankings would be more accurate if 1) we had more time and if 2) we could revise our rankings if needed. Indeed live results are more entertaining but I am afraid that it is often at the expense of the final ranking.

Classic Judging
BATTLE FREESTYLE. As for battle, I am very satisfied with the good job we did. I am 100% sure of each decision we took. We didn't have to ask for a single best trick to decide between two skaters, which usually happens at least a couple of times at each battle competition.

SLIDES. Last but not least, the slides. I was initially meant to judge that competition. Which is a big joke. I am not acquainted with the discipline, and moreover I never even had a go at judging it. I have no clue about how the organizer may have concluded it was a fine idea to sign me in. I knew about that decision early enough to make the change, which enabled me to spend the whole competition writing this entry (and the speed slalom report).


I was dreading that part of the trip too. As explained in my 2013 Shanghai entry, I have had too costly food experiences to enjoy the risk of reliving that. So that my diet when I am in Asia remains very basic. Last summer I held on one week with exclusively steamed white rice and watermelon. I was anxiously waiting for my options here. We often had the opportunity to eat at buffets so that I could vary my food income. Naomi and Seb have similar food behaviours as mine in Asia and being three, we had more weight to influence the final meal decisions.

In the evenings we would go to the food court of a shopping mall nearby. We tried Chinese Italian amongst other things. At noon, the lunch boxes were less appealing and we managed to negociate vegetarian meals for the three of us.

Somebody tells me why there are still LARDONS in the sauce
on top of the steamed rice in the VEGGIE version?


It was not a holiday trip. I had two missions over those 10 days: 1) judging the world champs and 2) taking part in the meeting of the Technical Committee to review the whole rulet. Do the calculation: Trip = 1+1 days, Worlds = 4 days, Meeting = 4 days... which makes 10!

As usual, beeing busy judging during the day and writing reports in the evening, except for one competition venue, three hotels, a couple of shopping malls and restaurants, I have hardly seen more of the city. I went for a couple of outings though, looking for rad t-shirts for a friend of Naomi's, visiting a night market with the French Team which I made the most of in buying souvenir presents, and going for a few electronics shops with Vladimir on the last afternoon.

Thumbs up!
Let's note that we met the most talkative and improbable bus driver, who, realizing we were French and Russian, treated us to our respective country anthems while we were driving the city. A moment full of emotions, with mixed feelings of pride, shame, amusement and bewilderment...

Let's note that other encounter, while we were going back from the night market, with a taxi driver who happened to not be the guy on his driver's licence at all. Instead of a clean brown-haired mid-40's driver, we had a grey-haired mid-60's guy with a long beard and gloves. We remained speechless, with our eyes wide open the whole fare, ready to jump out of the car at any moment.

All in all, despite a few mishaps and fails -- which I obviously bring to light here for cynical reasons and because it is what is fun talking about, and what is fun being remembered when you come across such lines several months later -- despite a few mishaps and fails, (or thanks to a few mishaps and fails?) that was another great trip at the other end of the world. I may not have visited, but I came across situations that could not have happened next door, which is a kind of tourism, right?


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