A spectacular cast for this year’s edition of Ice Legends

Stephane Lambiel 2016 Ice Legends

Stéphane Lambiel must read minds – that impressive is the line-up for the second edition of Ice Legends, a dream for all the skating fans out there. Mao Asada, for example, has never been to an ice show in Europe before, and for Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir it’s only the second time when that happens, after their presence, last year, at Art on Ice. Switzerland is again their host – and for the European fans in particular, Ice Legends is both a feast and a wonderful gift.

But as inspired as the cast was the campaign promoting the event, with the guests being introduced, one by one, through a hint on Ice Legends social media accounts: a short story, like a riddle, a video starring Stéphane saying this or doing that (the Mambo step sequence was to die for), all of them with lovely nuances and details only known by the fans: the lady with the triple axels, the giraffe pattern on someone’s costume, the obvious fact that a specific couple would win, one day, Olympic gold. It was a week with loads of guessing involved – let’s relive it, shall we? In the end we’ll have the dream cast I was telling you about.

by Florentina Tone

February 24. Eight weeks before the second edition of Ice Legends, and the organizers seem ready to pull the curtains and reveal some of the big names to be present in Geneva, on April 22. In a 15-second video, Stéphane Lambiel, the father of Ice Legends, says it simply, with a smile: “I was checking those videos with Salomé [Brunner], and I was so impressed with their skating. They were using the music, they were using each other’s energy, and I told her: «You have to watch this couple, they will be one day Olympic champions»”.

And they were: Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won the Olympic gold in Vancouver, in 2010, the first Canadian, as well as the first North American ice dance team to do so; and the youngest dance couple to win the Olympics – they were 20 and 22 when they skated that jewel of a free dance, to Mahler’s Symphony no. 5.

Four years later, in Sochi, the Canadians took silver, and, after a two-year break, they decided to return to the competitive arena. Until the beginning of next season, we’ll see them and their magic in Geneva, at this year’s edition of Ice Legends.

February 25. It’s a contour, a silhouette, today’s hint – and the fans are getting some help from the short presentation accompanying the (cropped) photo: “Stéphane Lambiel and our second artist have known each other since childhood. They have spent lots of time training, travelling, and competing together, and they have shared many emotions and medal celebrations. It is very special for us to have her in Ice Legends again”.

“Again” is the word making the difference, together with the long, wonderful relation shared by her and Stéphane – and it’s indeed Sarah Meier, winner of the European crown in 2011, in Bern, and two-time European silver medalist. In Geneva, Sarah will skate her favorite short program, as Stéphane Lambiel pointed out in a recent interview about the show.

February 26. No need for words in this particular case, because that marvelous step sequence, performed by Stéphane Lambiel in Patinoire des Vernets to announce his next guest, really speaks for itself. Approaching the boards, he only says that, his eyes glittering with excitement: “A very bad imitation, but do you know who he is?”.

Yes, most of the figure skating fans seem to know that step sequence by heart and the one who owned it during 2010-2011 season. “DAI” is one of the first reactions to the video, immediately followed by tens of others: “Daisuke!”, “It’s mambo!”, “Brilliant imitation. Looks like Daisuke Takahashi”, “Stéphane, merci for the amazing presentation, I think it’s Daisuke”, “Daisuke Takahashi! His Mambo is unique and unforgettable!”. True words: choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne, to “Historia de un Amor” and “Que Rico El Mambo” by Perez Prado, this short program is exquisite, to say the least. And the video showing Stéphane Lambiel recreating bits of the program, one of the most inspired and successful hints of Ice Legends promoting campaign: 83 shares, 332 likes and more than 4.300 views till March 12.

In the evening here comes the confirmation: Daisuke Takahashi will be in Geneva on April 22; and for this amazing athlete – the first Japanese male skater to medal at the Olympics (bronze, 2010), to win the World Championships (2010) and the ISU Grand Prix Final (2012) – Ice Legends will be only his third skating gala in Europe, after Stars sur glace (France, 2007) and Art on Ice tour (Switzerland, 2015); an additional reason to be in Geneva for the show…

February 27. “They are dear friends of everyone at Team Ice Legends and particularly Stéphane Lambiel, who was the ring bearer at their wedding. They will finally come to Geneva after missing the first edition due to injury, and we are honored to welcome them!”, says hint number 4. And for some particular skating fans, familiar with both professional and private lives of the skaters, “the ring bearer” detail might be just enough – but Stéphane decides to reveal more, in a soft, calm voice, showing friendship and appreciation: “With them, it’s always very intense, I was actually trying a death spiral with her. You think it’s the easiest element for pair skating, [but] I had a concussion, for 5 seconds I didn’t know where I was. I will never try a death spiral again”.

You’re right, it’s about pairs skating and some of Stéphane’s closest friends: Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. 2014 Olympic champions, 2013 World champions and four-time European champions, Tatiana and Maxim will be the only pairs skaters at this year’s edition of Ice Legends and some of the few participants in the show who are still competitive nowadays. After sitting out the post-Olympic season, due to Maxim’s shoulder injury and his subsequent surgery, the Russians are back on the ice and, prior to Geneva, they’ll try to recapture their World crown in Boston.

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov doing a death spiral in Bratislava, at 2016 Europeans

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov doing a death spiral in Bratislava, at 2016 Europeans

February 28. Again a silhouette in Ice Legends’ promo campaign – and an unmistakable one, really. Together with a more than telling caption – “This next artist and Stéphane Lambiel met back in 1999, at Junior Worlds, and they have competed against each other for a decade. Since his retirement in 2014, he has devoted himself to show skating and coaching” – one can be sure that Ice Legends’ next guest is no other than Brian Joubert. The French skater – 2007 World champion and three-time European champion – shared more than one podium with Stéphane Lambiel over the years, and he was one of his guests at the inaugural edition of Ice Legends, in December 2014.

As for the second edition of the show, all three medalists in the men’s event at 2007 Worlds will be a part of it, in Geneva. A (photo) reminder will do us good: Brian took the gold in Tokyo, followed by Daisuke Takahashi and Stéphane Lambiel. And because one of the main ideas surrounding Ice Legends is to show the audience “life changing programs”, the ones making a difference in someone’s competitive career, Brian will skate in Geneva the Bond short program from Tokyo, when he ran away with the World crown.

February 29. The next guest is one of Stéphane Lambiel’s personal favorites. “He is my idol. He’s very powerful, very good edges, beautiful spine, nice tricks – and one of his tricks is the one that I’m trying to do know”, says the Swiss in the 15-second video. And from the caption accompanying the video, the next detail proves golden: “Skating experts are still debating the meaning of the giraffe pattern on his Olympic costume!”.

You must remember the costume – and you must remember the 20-year old skating to “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin and winning the gold medal at 1998 Olympics in Nagano. Ilia Kulik is also the 1995 European champion, the 1997-1998 Grand Prix Final champion, and for Stéphane Lambiel is a great joy to have him at Ice Legends.

In a recent interview for the newspaper “24 heures”, Stéphane recounts with details and emotion a particular episode involving his favorite skater – Ilia was 19 back then, competing in the Worlds in Lausanne, and an 11-year-old Swiss boy was hoping to get an autograph signed by his idol: “I saw him passing through the Malley parking at the World Championships in Lausanne, in 1997. Unfortunately he had skated poorly and I was feeling sorry for him. I went towards him to ask for an autograph, but when I noticed his deception I didn’t dare to ask him. The following year he would become Olympic champion in Nagano. He was an inspiration. It’s great to have him in my show”.

March 1. The campaign announcing the cast of 2016 Ice Legends ends in glorious style: “A child prodigy who developed into an amazing artist. A World champion who, for the first time ever, landed two triple Axels in a program. A living legend who will leave everyone in Geneva speechless”.

Add here Stéphane’s utter joy and appreciation, easily traceable in his short video, “One of the most incredible skater from our generation, the movement with her is always very fluid…”, but also in his tweet in Japanese, “まさか本当に彼女が来てくれるなんて、信じられません![I can’t believe she’s coming!], and you’ll understand the burst of enthusiasm among the figure skating fans, when realizing Mao Asada is too among the guests of Ice Legends. “OMG! Mao Asada!”, “Maochan!”, “Oh my, this is Mao Asada, of course”, “Wow, Mao!”, “Mao Asada! The cast of this show is just… amazing! I’m speechless!”, “Daisuke and Mao on the same ice for a show in Europe? The fandom would probably explode with joy”.

True words: Ice Legends is the first show attended by Mao Asada in Europe – and a wonderful opportunity to see this amazing skater other than in competitions. She is indeed one of the most medaled female figure skater in the history of the sport, a highly recognized athlete in Japan and all over the world – 2010 Olympic silver medalist, a three-time World champion, a three-time Four Continents champion, a four-time Grand Prix Final champion, to name just a few… – but with Mao Asada it’s not just about the results. It is, first and foremost, about emotions. Hers – and ours, when watching her glide over the ice. It is as if she was born to skate, Mao Asada, and her presence at this year’s edition of Ice Legends, a gift a figure skating fan simply can’t say No to.

It's all about her arms: Mao Asada practicing her Madame Butterfly long program at 2015 Grand Prix Final in Barcelona

It’s all about her arms: Mao Asada practicing her Madame Butterfly long program at 2015 Grand Prix Final in Barcelona

A story of friendship between artists
And that’s exactly what Stéphane Lambiel had in mind when envisioning Ice Legends – creating emotions and memories for a lifetime. “I wanted the audience to be moved every second [of the show]”, he said last December, in a press conference announcing the second edition of the show. “Since the premiere [December 18, 2014], a lot of things happened in my life, but I woke up every morning with the same dream, the same desire: organize a second Ice Legends, through which I would offer the spectators things never seen before, programs out of the ordinary”. The headstone of the entire project was summarized in just one sentence – simple and beautiful, at the same time: “Ice Legends is, above all, a story of friendship between artists”.

No need to look any further: shoulder to shoulder during the press conference, Stéphane Lambiel and Carolina Kostner are the embodiment of the friendship metaphor. Knowing each other since childhood, sharing the same ice in Oberstdorf during summer, supporting one another through good times and hard times, they have grown into becoming great partners in their professional lives too: the Swiss has always been an important part of Carolina’s own show in Verona, Opera on Ice/Intimissimi on Ice, while the Italian stands now by her longtime friend in this adventure of crafting an unprecedented figure skating gala. During Ice Legends inaugural edition, Carolina Kostner – 2014 Olympic bronze medalist, 2012 World champion, five-time European champion – skated her ethereal, touching “Ave Maria”, but also a very personal, eye-catching interpretation of one of Chopin’s famous waltzes. In Geneva, on April 22, she and Stéphane will perform together a pas de deux, a love story in three acts, to the piano music played by the Georgian artist Khatia Buniatishvili. And this might easily be la pièce de résistance of the entire show…

Carolina Kostner performing her famous Bolero at Pinzolo on Ice (Italy), in 2015

Carolina Kostner performing her famous Bolero at Pinzolo on Ice (Italy), in 2015

Stéphane Lambiel skating to Jessie J’s „Nobody’s perfect” at 2016 Art on Ice

Stéphane Lambiel skating to Jessie J’s „Nobody’s perfect” at 2016 Art on Ice

…So there you have them. All of them: Carolina Kostner, Stéphane Lambiel, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Sarah Meier, Daisuke Takahashi, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, Brian Joubert, Ilia Kulik and Mao Asada.
Ready for a feast for both the eyes and ears?
See you in Geneva, on April 22.


Carolina Kostner: „I had to go back to my roots to find peace in my skating”

Kings on Ice Olympic Gala: all eyes on Stéphane Lambiel

The end of an era: Daisuke Takahashi retired from competitive skating

2015 Grand Prix Final: “Bellissima, bravissima Mao!”