Nathalie Péchalat was elected president of the French Ice Sports Federation, to replace Didier Gailhaguet who was forced to resign by the sex scandals that rocked the FFSG. It was March 14, three days before the containment began.
While an appeal was filed Saturday against his election by Damien Boyer-Gibaud, one of his opponents, the former ice dance champion, who is 36 years old is one of only two women to be at the head of an Olympic federation in France (with Isabelle Lamour at fencing), tells us how she lives her beginning of mandate.
How did your first steps at the Federation go?
NATHALIE PÉCHALAT. My first steps as president, I imagined them intense… less confined (laughs). I could not set foot at the headquarters of the Federation and retrieve certain files. But I like to see the positive side of things. This confinement allows me to devote myself fully to the federation, I devote all my days to it. I advanced, and multiplied the meetings with the various authorities like the Agency of the sport and the direction of the sports of the ministry, in particular to launch the call for candidate for the national technical director was activated this week) .
The first contacts with employees and licensees are also made remotely. They knew the skater, not the president…
I didn't know the president either, I discovered her (laughs). I spent 6 years abroad, I am used to long distance relationships, but it is true that it is not easy to create links. We get to know each other by videoconference and by email, it is not necessarily obvious. It is very stupid, but we do not know if we should be tu or to be seen. The coffee machine stage will come next.
Were you able to look at the first files?
We can not wait for the end of confinement, we must move forward especially as there is still this threat from the Ministry of Sports to withdraw the delegation (Editor's note: made when the scandal of sexual violence broke out and before the resignation of ex-president Didier Gailhaguet) . We must provide guarantees to the Minister, especially since the federation depends mainly on public aid. We must also think of the Olympic Games which will take place in 2 years in Beijing and create the link with the clubs, which had to cancel the galas which make them live and which are undergoing the crisis of full force. I feel that the whole team around me is willing to move forward, it is essential.
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Is the threat from the Sports Ministry to withdraw the delegation real?
Yes and that is why we must work to provide answers. We will review the governance of the federation from the GA in June, if it can be held, by retroactively limiting the number of terms of the president to three. We will ensure that all disciplines are represented so that the federation is that of all ice sports. I want us to find solutions for our athletes, especially financially, by helping them to sign agreements and found grants or partners. And of course, we must move forward on the issue of combating violence.
Doesn't containment risk putting this painful file in the background?
Especially not. Confinement will not relegate the issue of sexual violence to the background. I had co-signed a forum with the Athletes' Commission, now I must act. I could no longer say that the others are not doing the job. We will have to put actions in place, find the right way to act to provide answers to clubs, licensees and parents. The only thing I can tell them is that I will work to prevent this from happening again. But making a promise is not enough. Only strong acts will reassure them.
How do “your” athletes experience this confinement?
It is essentially the directors of the teams in France who are in contact with them. I exchanged with those I knew more, especially with Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron. I asked them if they wanted to return to France, they preferred to stay in Montreal. Sport is also stopped, but even if athletes cannot use their bodies, they can advance in other areas. A lot of athletes lived great moments after being stopped by an injury, this period will make us all progress.