After a decade competing on the senior circuit, French star Romain Ponsart is preparing to hang up his competitive skates at the end of this season.
The past 18 months have been a rough ride for the 29-year-old from Charleville-Mézières, a commune in northern France.
In early 2020, Ponsart returned to his homeland to renew his U.S. visa in order to continue training with Rafael Arutyunyan in Irvine, California. Two weeks later the pandemic struck and France went into lockdown where it remained for a long period of time. The U.S. Embassy shut its doors and Ponsart had to wait almost 18 months to get his visa renewed. But then things got complicated … by that time many things had changed in his life.
“It was pretty bad timing. It was difficult. I was by myself but they opened the rink in my hometown just for me,” he said. “They were really nice — they gave me a key to the Zamboni and said I could do whatever I wanted.
“I am really good friends with Nathan Chen so I was recording my practices and sending videos to him to get advice on my jumps.”
The French federation then sent Ponsart to Paris to train. It was during that time that he decided to start preparing for his future. In early November 2021, he relocated to Nice to start the process of obtaining his coaching certificate. He is now training with Claude Péri-Thévenard and Cedric Tour.
For his final season, Ponsart chose “Keeping Me Alive” by Jonathan Roy for the short program and an Elvis Presley medley for the long. Benoît Richaud choreographed both programs. Ponsart said he wanted to show two very different personalities with his programs. “I already did a Spanish theme, tango, and things like that. I had already done classical, and so for the short I wanted to have something classical but also contemporary.
“And the goal for the free was to let go and show my showman side, which people probably haven’t seen from me before, as I previously never felt comfortable to do this.”
Unfortunately, his final Grand Prix short program performance in front of a home crowd did not go quite as he had hoped. “I was really disappointed and upset with myself after the short. I was like, ‘OK, this is the last one, this needs to be perfect.’ I knew I was ready to do it. But I got on the ice and felt so stiff because of the pressure I put on myself,” he said.
“During the warm up (for the free) I felt terrible. I had stiff legs and it was hard to breathe. I tried not to get into the same mindset as yesterday, to focus on what I had to do, and told myself it was not so different from practice. Actually, it was Guillaume Cizeron who gave me good advice just before I got on the ice. He said ‘just listen to your body; it knows what to do.’
“I really enjoyed that skate and I’m really happy I got to skate like that for my last Grand Prix in France, and the last Grand Prix of my skating career.” Ponsart finished 10th in both the short and long programs and 11th in the overall standings.
He is now preparing for his final appearance at the French Championships in mid-December where he will attempt to qualify for the second spot France has at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
At the end of this season Ponsart said he will retire and begin his new career as a figure skating coach. “I would like to open a school, but I don’t know where yet. I am discussing a few places, but in general this is my plan for the future.”
Ed. Note: Ponsart finished fourth at the French Championships, less than two points out of third place.