Photo courtesy of Garrett Spain. The pair recently won the 2019 European Championship.

French skating duo Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres have had a lot of success this season, winning the 2018 Grand Prix Final and the 2019 European Championship in recent months. The Olympic pairs skaters train here in the Tampa Bay area during the season.

James has been skating for 20 years and Cipres for a little over 20 years. They began skating together about nine years ago.

“We have known each other for a long time now and we are really good friends off the ice and on the ice,” said Cipres. “I feel good when I skate with her, and I don’t see myself skating with anyone else.”

“What I like about Morgan is that he is very competitive and he’s a perfectionist, which isn’t always easy, but it makes champions,” said James. “He’s pushed us to where we are today.”

They relocated to Tampa two years ago and train at Florida Hospital’s Center Ice in Wesley Chapel. James and Cipres are six-time French National Champions. They competed in last year’s Olympics and the 2014 Olympics together as well, and they are well-known for their Sound of Silence program. They recently competed in Japan in the World Championships, and they will leave for Japan again to compete in the ISU World Team Trophy in figure skating.

The preparation that they take during the season can be described as grueling at times. According to Coach John Zimmerman, who has worked with the pair for three seasons now, they work a lot on cardio and strength training in addition to choreography and lifts.

“We are always having to work on different levels and different aspects of skating,” said Zimmerman.

He said that taking time off and changing the training program routine around is important to avoid injury and to keep their muscles guessing to work the different muscle core groups. It also keeps them engaged and interested in skating and not burned out.

“It’s been an awesome experience working with them,” said Zimmerman. “They are older and more mature and they know what they want, which is fun in a different way. They are very driven and they are never sitting back and relaxing.”

James has been coming to Riverview twice a week to train with Tyana Marlowe, owner and coach of Tampa Bay Rhythmics and Dance. James said she wanted to become flexible using the correct technique and admired the straight lines of rhythmic gymnasts. “They are strong, they have lean muscles and their positions are perfect,” she said. “It’s made a big difference in our skating this year.”

The pair’s next competition is coming up in Japan and is the last major event this season. They will take some time off afterwards for about three weeks and go back to France.

“We want to do something good for the team, and I think everybody’s motivated to be at the top and getting closer to the podium and make our country proud,” said Cipres.

“We have to stay focused,” said James. “If we can get our team on the podium, it would be a great accomplishment for the entire team and the country.”

James and Cipres have the 2022 Olympics in the back of their minds, but right now they are just focused on what is in front of them.

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Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.