France’s Adam Siao Him Fa has just finished the first World Championships of his career – literally: we’re doing this interview in the Media Lounge while in the arena the men’s medal ceremony is under way – and his eyes are already on the future.
Strike that: his future was already in the making at the times of Worlds on home soil. At one point during our conversation, Adam would say candidly: “I thought that, after the Olympics, I have to clean everything and start something new”. [And he did start anew, announcing later on, in June, that he would leave the skating club of Courbevoie, preparing the next Olympic cycle and embracing new experiences.]
At the time we talked, his mind was already made: “I would like to continue for 4 years, for sure – but I think I would like to continue for 8 more years. After the Olympics in Milan I will see how my body feels, if I’m not too tired”.
Future aside, this interview is mostly about Adam’s present, about his first and very long Olympic season, with all its trials and tribulations: he had started the bid for a place in the team last summer, and he kept on going, thrills and fears included, until his name was finally named in the roster for Beijing.
14th at the Olympics, he would finish the World Championships in Montpellier on a very high note, as one of the revelations of the competition. His programs to Star Wars and Daft Punk? Sheer quality, show-quality even, people in the arena on their feet – and he truly made the programs his.
But this interview is also about Adam’s past, about the 3-year old boy from Bordeaux who is convinced that sports, and skating in particular, is a regular, almost mandatory activity after school. He watches his three older siblings doing it, and he wants to try is as well – more than that, he looks forward to. And this right here is the beginning of a beautiful journey into the skating world for Adam Siao Him Fa.
This, and a particular program, to a particular (famous) soundtrack, while wearing a particular (funny) costume made by his mom. This story makes Adam burst into laughter – and, let us tell you, this open, genuine conversation is full of laughter, enthusiasm, passion for skating.
Bonus: a very sincere list of (different) reasons on why the French admires both Yuzuru Hanyu and Nathan Chen, and what he can learn from them both.
Because to Adam his skating journey is also a learning process. And he’ll always find the good part even in a disappointing experience.
That’s who he is: a learner, a hard-worker, an optimist.
Interview by Florentina Tone/Montpellier
Adam has begun his press marathon even before the men’s event concluded: with World Championships in Montpellier, the interest in this talented French skater is huge, so we find him in the Media Lounge, doing interviews, and we ask ourselves, and we ask him: does he even know the final rankings, the place he finished on?
He does, he nods smiling. And it is one that he can be extremely proud of: 8th place in his senior debut at Worlds.
Florentina Tone: Adam, let’s talk about how these (first) World Championships were for you. How was the experience, what did you want from this event, how do you feel it ended for you?
Adam Siao Him Fa: For me, it was something great! Because, first of all, it was in my country – I have many friends here, my family, who came to support me…
You’re from Bordeaux…
Yes, I’m from Bordeaux, and I lived 6 years in Toulouse, which is really close to Montpellier.
And the competition was amazing, I missed skating in front of people. Actually, this was my first competition with so many people, and they were really supportive!
For your free skate today, it really felt exhilarating to be in the audience, you could feel the enthusiasm, the response of the crowd even from the media tribune – but how was it for you?
[Laughing] It felt great, it felt like a show, I just enjoyed every moment! It was really fun overall!
Your programs this season – to music from “Star Wars” for the short, and to a Daft Punk medley for the free – are almost show-programs, they’re really made to entertain the crowd, they’re different in the best possible way. Let’s talk about each of them, about your work with choreographer Benoît Richaud…
So for the short, for the Star Wars program, Benoît asked me to look for some musics, for something original – and I was looking for some music, and he was also searching on his own – and, at one point, he sent me the music that eventually became my step sequence music: the remix on the “Imperial March”, and I immediately loved it!
I remember thinking: Yeah! Let’s do a short program on the Star Wars music! It’s something really famous in the whole world and…
It goes without saying, but have you watched the movies?
Yeah, of course! [laughing] I love Star Wars!
That’s how it started, and, afterwards, Benoît sent me other musics from the movies, and I had to choose, but I didn’t know which one was better [smiling], because they are all great!
And Maxime Rodriguez, the composer, did the mix and the cut.
If I remember right, he worked with Philippe Candeloro on his D’Artagnan program, but also with Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron on their Fame rhythm dance a while ago…
I have worked with him many times before, and he made a cut, let’s say, like a first test. And I immediately liked it, and that’s how we made the Star Wars program.
FROM ANAKIN SKYWALKER TO DARTH VADER
And how was the actual working process with Benoît, how do you work with him? He has all these crazy, interesting ideas, I think – and it seems quite difficult to put that amount of imaginative work on the actual ice…
That’s actually true! [smiling], and when we worked on this program it was the first time when I worked with him!
Ah, that was two seasons ago!
Yeah, exactly, but we decided to keep the program for this season as well.
But, I remember, at the beginning, it was reaaaally difficult! [laughing heartily]
Imagining you with Benoît: What do you want from me?!
Yeah! When we did the step sequence, I was looking at him and I was like: Can you do that again? I remember just the first two steps! [laughing]
And afterwards, when we made the whole step sequence, at the end I was so tired that I said: Ok, I’m even more tired than if I had skated the whole program! [laughing still].
But it was really, really cool! And Benoît is skating with me when creating the programs, he’s showing me [what to do] – and I feel really good because I like his style.
And it was really fun to make the whole program, and we wanted to tell a story: we thought it would be a good idea to tell the story of Anakin Skywalker, who’s really powerful at the beginning, and afterwards he kind of transforms himself to Darth Vader.
And I used that story to interpret my program.
And you did it quite convincingly, I’d say!
Yeah, we can say it worked pretty well! [smiling]
>>>> Benoît Richaud: “As a choreographer, it’s my job to make my skaters become who they have to be. And to make them appreciated by the skating world”.
“THE DAFT PUNK PROGRAM IS MY FAVORITE, FROM EVERYTHING I SKATED”
In a way or another, every program by Benoît Richaud is meant to be viral or, let’s say, social media-friendly – and your programs are no exception to that [Adam nods: Yeah, it’s really fun!]. So let’s talk about your free program to a Daft Punk medley. How did its story begin?
At the end of last season, we talked to Benoît and my coach, Laurent [Depouilly], and we thought it would be good idea to choose a famous music…
Famous and… French?
[Smiling] At the beginning we were only looking for something famous. And only afterwards we thought it would be cool to skate to something French, because we realized: Oh, Worlds are in Montpellier! And also, there’s the Olympics!
And I was looking for some music on my own, I thought about rock music at first, like AC/DC and Pink Floyd and some others, and I thought about Daft Punk as well, but in my mind I only had the fast pieces, and I thought: But I won’t be able to skate the whole program to it, the 4 minutes would be so hard!
And, the next day, when I went to practice, my coach Laurent talked to me and he told me: Hey, what do you think about skating to Daft Punk?
And I was like: Oh, I thought about it yesterday [laughing] – so, yes, let’s do it!
So I listened to all albums of Daft Punk, there were so many good musics to choose from – it was really hard to pick! And we sent the idea to Benoît, he loved it, and it was really cool to create this program too.
And you might have discovered along the way that an ice dance team also chose this music, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, telling the story of an alien and an astronaut….
Actually, when I first saw their program, and I heard the music, I was just looking, and I thought: I know that song from somewhere! Wait a minute!!! [laughing]
HIS RESPONSE TO THE EXCITEMENT OF THE AUDIENCE? “STAY FOCUSED, YOU’RE NOT AT THE END YET!”
Talk to me about the making of the program, because you embody the music to the fingertips, to the body roll even. Whose idea was it to have a body roll inside the program?
[Bursting into laughter] It was Benoît’s idea – and it was really fun! When I do the steps, my thoughts are: I have to enjoy it, I just have to dance, actually! I don’t even have to think about skating, just enjoy the music, and have fun, and everything!
And how do you think the audience reacted today, here, at Worlds, to your program?
They were great! They were so great, actually!
And I felt so good, because they were really supportive, I could hear them… and, during the warm-up and also at the beginning of the program, I was like: Ok, stay focused! Chill, take it easy, you’re not at the end yet! [smiling]
I thought the audience reacted beautifully to your programs even at Internationaux de France earlier this season…
Yes, and even in Skate America I saw that many people loved my programs, and there were really supportive… and it feels really good, you know?
Are you thinking about keeping any of those programs for the following season? Or are you more like: Ok, programs, you had your life, now it’s time for new ones.
Actually, the Daft Punk program is my favorite one of all times, from everything I skated – it’s the one that I enjoyed the most skating. And I think I am going to keep both programs – but for shows, and I am going to change them a bit. The Star Wars program I can even do it with a lightsaber… [smiling]
But I thought that, after the Olympics, I have to clean everything and start something new.
THE LONG AND STRENUOUS, YET VERY GRATIFYING OLYMPIC SEASON
Before leaving this chapter behind, let’s have a recap of it, shall we? A recap of your first Olympic season, starting with your successful attempt to secure a second Olympic spot for France in the men’s event. It was a very long season, with a lot of competitions and, if I remember right, you started in Bergamo, at 2021 Lombardia Trophy…
Even before, actually… I started with making the programs, in May 2021, the free, but we also worked on the short, because we had some alterations to do. And I had a first national test, as a part of the Olympic preparation, in France, in June.
The programs were ready by then?
Not really – we just showed them, so we could have a feedback from the judges and the federation, and then, in August, we had another test, and in September I had like four competitions in one month. It was really hard.
[Smiling] I had a pretty big season, a really long one.
But this was your plan, right?
Yes, it was planned. All of these were planned, but it was really hard, because last season I didn’t have that many competitions, no one did!, so I was almost like: Ok, I skate for two seasons now!
And how was the experience of Nebelhorn Trophy? It was there that you had to secure that second Olympic spot… Was it difficult to get ready? Was the pressure ON?
The pressure was really high, indeed! I think it was the competition where I was the most stressed. Because I knew it depended on me, but I also knew that, yes, I can bring the spots, but it’s not necessarily me who is going to the Olympics, the job is not finished.
So it was pretty stressful.
And when were you officially named in the Olympic team for Beijing? When did you know for sure?
After the Nationals, in December .
And did the pressure finally lift itself then, even if just a bit? Or did it keep amassing, while getting ready for the Games? What was your mindset then? Relieved, enthusiast: Ok, I’m going! Or really tensed: O-o-k, I’m goooing!
No, actually, the pressure was different. It was more like: Wow, I’m going to Olympics! Like: It will be amazing!
And I didn’t know that I could skate that well, actually. I prepared for that, of course – and at the Olympics I was not that stressed, I was pretty calm for it.
Actually, it was the first competition where I managed myself pretty well.
USING BRIAN JOUBERT’S OLYMPIC EXPERIENCE
And how would you explain keeping your cool? Because there seems to be so many different ways to feel prior and during the competition itself: I think Guillaume [Cizeron] said somewhere, for example, that Olympics should be called Mental Olympic Games, because you need to handle the huge pressure that comes with it…
It was my first Olympics, yes, but I also knew that’s a competition that happens every four years. I knew that I don’t have to put on me that much pressure – it would be worse if I do that, actually.
When I trained in Poitiers, with Brian Joubert, he talked to me about his experience at the Olympics, and I used it like a preparation for me – and I felt I just had to feel confident and enjoy it, exactly because it’s every four years!
Are you happy with how Olympics went for you?
And what would you take from this edition of the Games, for a future one?
It was a really big lesson for me, I learned a lot, about how I have to be on the ice, what I have to do for my mental preparation. And I used it here, in Montpellier, and I can see that it works.
Adam, where do you see yourself in a couple of years? Have you given it a thought?
I would like to continue for 4 years, for sure – so my next goal are the Olympics in Milan.
But I think I would like to continue for 8 more years – after Milan I will see how my body is, if I’m still fit, if I’m not too tired.
“I WOULD LIKE PEOPLE TO SEE HOW MUCH I LOVE THE SPORT, HOW PASSIONATE I AM FOR IT”
Which are your thoughts for the next season? Where do you want to go with your programs, your music? Would you work with Benoît again?
[Smiling] Actually, we are looking for some musics right now [end of March 2022 – n.ed.].
You’re not wasting any time then!
No, I already started to look for some musics before Worlds.
You need to know that you set the standards really high with these programs…
Yeah, I know! It will be really hard, actually! [smiling] It will be really hard, because I’d have to keep the level.
But I want to bring something new, something different from this year, I would like to discover myself more, to some different style of music – and I think it would be a good thing for me to grow with new ideas.
What kind of a skater you want to be, how do you want people to perceive you?
It’s a pretty hard question, I don’t know…
But I think I would like to have people see me as a good skater, of course, technically, but also who’s living his programs. I would like people to connect with me on the ice, to see how much I love the sport, how passionate I am for it.
I think you took great steps in that direction even this week, with your performances here, at Worlds.
Yeah! It’s a good start, actually, and it feels really good.
Would you change anything in the way you skated here, on home soil? Would you have done something different?
I would like more, of course – this is always a part of the sport. But it was a really good week for me, I’m excited.
You’re not leaving Montpellier disappointed…
No. Actually, almost never!
Even if it’s bad, even if I do a bad performance, it’s a lesson. A lesson for the future, and I know that, based on it, I can improve a lot.
MEET ADAM SIAO HIM FA: THE BEGINNINGS
This is a different part of the interview, one about beginnings. So when did you start skating, Adam? Who took you to the rink? What do you remember from back then?
[Laughing] Oh, so we’re starting with the first day!
In my family, I have one big sister and two big brothers – and all of them did figure skating.
That’s quite a skating family you have…
Yeah, we all did skating, apart from my parents – they didn’t try it.
But how come? How come that everyone skated?
Actually, at the beginning, for my sister, the ice rink was pretty close from home, and she started to do figure skating, but also gymnastics. At a certain moment, she had to make a choice, and she continued with figure skating.
And, afterwards, my brother wanted to try figure skating as well, he liked it, and my older brother followed him too. As for me, I kind of followed my brothers because when you are young you want to do the exact same thing as your siblings, so… [smiling]
And, I remember, when I was 3, I was with my mom, I wasn’t at school yet, but after school, my mom went and picked my brothers and took them to the ice rink for their lessons. And I thought: Yeah, it’s normal to go and do sports after school.
So… at the age of 4, I go to school, my mom picks me and she brings me to the rink… but I’m not skating!!! I was really disappointed [bursting into laughter]. I remember thinking: Why am I not on the ice?! [laughing still]
I really thought it was normal [to go and skate after finishing the school schedule].
So I asked my parents to let me skate and they said: One more? Yeah, of course! We are already in the rink…
And I remember that my first lesson was really bad. I cried the whole time. I panicked because I didn’t understand what the coach was saying. She told me to bend the knees, and I didn’t understand, and I was like [making a crying sound].
So I cried on the first day, at the first lesson, and the next day I came back, Let’s try again. And, this time, I understood what the coach was saying and I was happy: Ok, I got it! [laughing]
Talking about beginnings, what might be one of your first memories regarding skating? A program, maybe, a competition, something that you saw on TV?
Oh, I have some memories, actually [smiling]. I remember a competition I saw on TV, I don’t remember if it was Worlds or Europeans, I was 6 or 7, and it was at this time when I said: Ok, I want to go to Olympics!
And I also remember my very first program, it was on the Lion King, Hakuna Matata! And it was pretty fun, because I had the fingerprints, the paws of the lion on my butt [laughing heartily].
Who made that costume?
My mom, of course [laughing still]. It was pretty funny – and I still laugh thinking about it.
Do you still have the costume?
Yes, I do.
“MY TWO FAVORITE SKATERS ARE NATHAN CHEN AND YUZURU HANYU”
When you just started skating and going to competitions, was there someone who admired? Do you remember having someone in the skating world that you liked, that you looked up to?
At first, I was watching Brian Joubert, as a French skater, and also Alexei Yagudin.
I started watching them when I was about 11 – at that time I was starting to watch more and more figure skating competitions. And it’s actually at that moment that I realized that I really liked this sport, and it became a passion for me.
What was your dream back then?
At that moment I was thinking that it would be amazing to go to Europeans, to Worlds and Olympics. When you are young, this is the dream.
But now that you have gone to the Olympics, to Worlds, what’s the next dream that you have?
To win the Olympics! Or win the Europeans, or the Worlds! [smiling]
Are there any skaters that you admire right now, or skaters that you enjoy watching?
Now I prefer to watch more the Japanese and the Americans. My two favorite skaters are Nathan Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu.
What do you like in each of them?
So, Yuzuru, I was really impressed the first time I saw him on TV, how effortless are his jumps and how good he was – how good he is, actually.
He’s really good, and it’s impressive to see for how long he’s been skating, and he’s still great, you know? The first time I saw him in real life was actually recently – at the World Team Trophy last season.
I thought you might have been in the audience, at 2012 Worlds in Nice…
I was really young back then [Adam was 11 at the time].
So 2021 World Team Trophy was the first time that you saw Yuzuru skating live…
Yeah, and I felt like he had so much charisma, you know? And I was really impressed about the atmosphere he creates on the ice – it’s crazy, actually!
And what I like about Nathan is… at first, his jumps. He does all quads and…
But I really admire Nathan because I kind of feel like him. Because, at the beginning, he was a really good jumper and he was not that as good, I think, on his components. But he improved a lot! And when I was younger, it was kind of the same for me: I was a good jumper, but I was not skating really well.
And the first time I saw him, for me it was impressive to see that many quads and then, year after year, to see that he improved a lot on the skating skills and everything – and he is a skater that I really enjoy watching! And I thought: If he can do it, I can do it too!
[Interview by Florentina Tone/Montpellier
Photos by Alberto Ponti, Florentina Tone]
MORE TO SEE: GLIMPSES OF ADAM’S OLYMPIC SEASON
2021 Lombardia Trophy; Adam finished second
2021 Nebelhorn Trophy; Adam finished second, qualifying a second berth for French men at 2022 Olympics
2021 Internationaux de France; Adam finished eighth
2022 World Figure Skating Championships; Adam finished eighth
[Photos taken by Alberto Ponti in Bergamo, Oberstdorf, Grenoble, Montpellier]