By Hiro Yoshida
This season has seen Kévin Aymoz make huge strides on the world stage, but the Frenchman is more focused on how he makes those who watch him skate feel.
After making his season debut at the Autumn Classic International in September 2018, he travelled back to Canada in October 2018 for the first of his two Grand Prix assignments at Skate Canada in Laval, Quebec where he finished seventh. The following month he fared better at his hometown Grand Prix, the Internationaux de France, in Grenoble where he came fifth.
He comfortably claimed his second French national title just a few weeks later. Even though he was pleased to be on the top step of the podium after coming second in 2017, the win in itself was not the main goal for him.
“For me it was a training competition to prepare for the European Championships,” Aymoz said. “I won and I am national champion of this one, but it wasn’t stressful for me thinking I need to win.
“I was not thinking about the result. I was here to train the programme.”
January 2019 saw Aymoz participate in his second European Championships in Minsk, Belarus. In 2017, he only managed to place 15th, but this time round he finished fourth in both the short and free and missed out on the bronze medal by just 0.74 points.
On the strength of his success at Europeans, he was selected go to his first World Championships in Saitama, Japan. He scored a personal best of 88.24 in the short to put himself in seventh place going into the free. Errors on a quadruple toe loop and a triple Axel dropped him down to 11th overall, but he was upbeat about his experiences at both Europeans and Worlds this season.
“I don’t know if this gives me more confidence, but the results say I was the fourth best European guy and the 11th best guy in the world,” he said. “When I was really young and looked at the TV, I said I want to skate at this competition. It’s really cool to be there.”
In 2017, Aymoz parted ways with his coaching team in France and connected with John Zimmerman and Silvia Fontana. He has been working with them ever since.
“I met John Zimmerman at the World Team Trophy and the federation said it’s going to be really cool if I go make my new short programme with John and Silvia,” he recalled. “After the two weeks with John and Silvia, I felt a really strong connection between the three of us and I said to the federation I am staying because I feel really great. I found what I lost in France.”
Aymoz had to move up to the senior ranks for the 2017/2018 Olympic season after a fine seventh place finish at the 2017 World Junior Championships. He initially struggled with the demands of competing with more experienced rivals in his first season as a senior skater.
“Last season I had no choice, but to go to seniors,” he said. “I wasn’t really ready to compete.”
Despite having the most successful season of his career so far, it has not been all plain sailing for the Frenchman.
“I had a really bad season outside of skating,” Aymoz admitted. “A lot of things happened to me and I was really lost. John and Silvia were there, and we worked a lot on ice to help me to push away my problems. I think through that I became stronger and every competition was a fight and every competition was a good memory and good result.”
Working with Zimmerman and Fontana has entailed spending a lot of time at their base in Florida and culturally it was an adjustment for Aymoz, although a number of his teammates now also train at the same rink with him.
“When I am in France, I walk everywhere. I can walk. In the U.S., I need a car to move around.
“It’s totally different from France, but I really enjoy it. I have some friends – John and Silvia, Morgan (Ciprès) and Vanessa (James) and Mae (Méité).
“I stayed five months in the U.S. to prepare for Europeans and Worlds and I feel it’s long, but at the end of April I will go back home for two or three weeks to see family and friends in France and after I go back to work.”
Aymoz previously competed in baton twirling at the highest level (he became French national champion in 2016) which has enabled him to bring a fresh perspective to his skating. He has wowed audiences by incorporating acrobatic elements into his routines, including an aerial into a step sequence.
“It helped me on the ice to find a move like nobody else had and to make a difference with other skaters because if everyone does an element, the choreography will be all the same,” he said. “I try to make a difference and that’s why I do a lot of stuff outside of skating.”
His modern music choices have also made people pay attention to his skating. This past season he opted for “Horns” by Lick Twist and Bryce Fox and “In This Shirt” by The Irrepressibles. Aymoz picked the latter piece of music after a suggestion from his coaches of a different song by the same artist triggered a memory.
“I remembered at this moment I know a music from this guy that I heard six years ago, and the moment of my life was exactly what the lyrics were saying.
“I cried a little bit and I had chills on my arms at the end of the song.
“I said it’s time to skate to this one.”
Aymoz believes it is essential for a skater to have an emotional connection with their skating music.
“We know the elements are not going to change whatever the music is. It’s the same element. A Lutz is a Lutz, a flip is a flip, a spin is a spin. But for me the music is really important because the song will follow me all the season – the good day, the bad day, the rainy day, the sunny day. We need a song we can listen to 365 days.”
While he looks ahead to next season, Aymoz still maintains that personal progression and expression is more important than any result or title.
“My dream is not to be the champion and have gold medals. The gold medal is the bonus. My dream is to go on the ice and skate and when I say goodbye I can say I am proud of myself and I was happy to skate and feel at one with the audience and the judges.”