Ice dance dominance: 10 Olympic teams, including champions, call Montreal home

Canada's Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon coached an incredible 10 of the 23 dance teams competing in Beijing at the Ice Academy of Montreal, including France's newly crowned Olympic champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.

Canadian couple Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon quickly becoming trusted coaches

France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron celebrate with Canadian coach Marie-France Dubreuil, right, and French coach Romain Haguenauer, left, after winning the gold medal in ice dance at the Beijing Olympics. (Bernat Armangue/The Associated Press)

In the hours before the rhythm dance at the Beijing Olympics, Marie-France Dubreuil could feel the familiar pre-competition nerves.

It had been 15 years since she and husband, Patrice Lauzon, had stepped on the competitive ice.

But the Canadians, who captured back-to-back world silver medals and five national titles before retiring in 2007, might have been the busiest people at Capital Indoor Stadium during the ice dance events.

Dubreuil and Lauzon coached an incredible 10 of the 23 dance teams competing in Beijing at I.AM — Ice Academy of Montreal — including France's newly crowned Olympic champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.

WATCH | Papadakis, Cizeron take ice-dance gold medal:

Were they as nervous behind the boards as on the ice?

"It's funny because Patrice asked me that in the car today," Dubreuil said after Saturday's rhythm dance. "I think our bodies remember the routine of a competition day. And my body wants to be nervous."

Lauzon said it was a different sort of nerves.

"When I was skating I was very conscious of my body," he said. "Am I feeling good, tired, how are my legs? And as a coach it doesn't really matter.

"Today I was very stressed but it's not the same level at all. And actually having so many teams, I guess makes it easier. Because the ball gets rolling, you're more nervous for the first team, then you get in the moment."

Rapid growth since 2014 start

Dubreuil, Lauzon and former French skater Romain Haguenauer co-founded the academy in 2014. They had one team in the Sochi Olympics that year. They had four teams four years later in Pyeongchang, including Canada's Olympic champs Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

Did they ever dream of 10?

"No," Lauzon said with a laugh. "It went quite fast."

Moir, meanwhile, was hired a year ago as the head coach of a satellite Ice Academy in southern Ontario.

Among the other Montreal-based teams: Olympic bronze medallists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, their American teammates Madison Chock and Evan Bates, Olivia Smart and Adrian Diaz of Spain, China's Wang Shiyue and Liu Xinyu, and Canadians Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen, who were ninth on Monday.

Dubreuil and Lauzon believe their program's success is in the holistic, fun and safe training environment they constantly strive for.

"We take care of the human being more than anything else," Lauzon said. "I think that's what draws people in."

WATCH | Canada's Gilles, Poirier place 7th:

Friendly atmosphere

There certainly wasn't a sense of fierce competition between the teams in Beijing. Instead, there were numerous warm embraces, and congratulatory high-fives after stepping off the ice.

Fournier Beaudry said sitting in the locker room, lacing up her skates before going on the ice, she was surrounded by her training mates from Montreal. It helped ease any jitters in her Olympic debut.

"We're all in the room stressing out and breathing together," she said.

While so many dancers from the same program might be unique in figure skating, Sorensen likened it to any team environment. He compared it to Canada's short-track speed skating team that trains in Montreal.

"They train shoulder-by-shoulder every day long, it's competition all day long, they'll push each other and that's why people get better," he said. "So being able to re-create that in ice dance is something that we're extremely grateful for."

When Virtue and Moir launched their comeback in 2016, they moved to Montreal to train with Dubreuil and Lauzon, instead of their former Michigan-based coach Marina Zoueva. Virtue and Moir praised Dubreuil and Lauzon for their holistic approach after they won gold in Pyeongchang, becoming the most decorated ice dancers in Olympic history.

Laurence Fournier Beaudry, centre, and Nikolaj Sorensen, left, of Canada, react with Lauzon, right, following their free-dance performance. (Bernat Armangue/The Associated Press)


The skaters in Beijing echoed those sentiments.

"It's something non-tangible," Sorensen said. "It's hard to a put a finger on. The energy that Marie and Patrice have set from the beginning in the arena, there's just no room for bullshit. It's an energy, it's a vibration, where people just know that there's no bad blood, there's no room for bad competition on the ice, nobody is in the way.

"There's an unbelievably healthy reputation among all of us. The coaches have done an extremely good job of keeping us all positive."

Cizeron said the group is a "community."

"We're all really good friends," he said.

It's far from the first time a coach has had skaters from more than one country at an Olympics. Canadian coach Brian Orser, for example, has had athletes from several countries at once, and would hastily change from one team's jacket to another in between skaters.

The 47-year-old Dubreuil and Lauzon, who's 46, opted to remain neutral. Both wore chic black coats.

None of the skaters said they felt short-changed by their coaches' split allegiances.

Quite the opposite.

"Our coaches are extremely professional. They know how to divide their attention equally," Sorensen said. "And so you never feel alone. It doesn't feel crowded. If anything, it's like going to a party with all your friends and it's just a great time."

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