Germany’s Nicole Noennig, 22, and Matthias Bleyer, 25, were second last year in senior pairs in Germany. This year they hope to be first. If not, they at least hope to be one of the top two pairs to qualify for Europeans, where they finished eighth last season. They plan to skate at least until the 2006 Olympics and maybe afterwards.
This season, they finished tenth in their first competition at Skate Canada in Halifax, then eighth at the Trophee Eric Bompard Cachemire in Paris, and fifth at the Bofrost Cup on Ice in Germany. “The new system is good for us,” Bleyer said. “We get points for all of our elements that we didn’t get before from the judges.” “Tamara Moskvina talked with us in a training camp last summer about how to get more points,” Noennig added. “We’re trying to make our elements lovely and interesting even when they are simple. We don’t like to see harder elements when they are not well done.”
The couple’s long program includes a throw triple salchow and triple toe loop and side-by-side triple toe loop/double flip and double toe loop. For the short, they are using a side-by-side triple toe loop and a throw triple salchow. “We have new elements from last season,” Bleyer said. “We have a different lasso lift with one hand and a side-by-side triple toe loop/double flip. We are also training a throw triple flip. We hope to change the throw triple toe loop to a throw triple flip and add a triple toe loop/double toe loop to our side-by-side jumps.” “I really like throws,” Noennig said. “It’s lovely flying.” “I like throws too,” Bleyer said. “On throws, I do very little. She does all the work.”
The couple teamed up in 2001. Bleyer had previously competed with Stefanie Weiss, placing second in Germany in 1999 and 11th at Junior Worlds that same season. “Nicole is very small and has a good body for pairs,” Bleyer said. “I feel safe in the lifts,” Noennig said of her partner.
Both skaters began skating under the East German system. Bleyer began at age four. “A coach came to my kindergarten and picked me for figure skating,” he said. “I skated singles for fifteen years and was national champion in novice and juniors. Then my former coach told me I would be a good boy for pairs because I was big. I did both for a year and then only pairs. Pairs was my favorite because it’s more interesting and there is a second person by your side.”
Noennig started when she was three after also being picked out of kindergarten in East Germany. She worked with Katarina Witt’s coach, Jutta Muller, for a few years and skated singles until she was 18. Like Bleyer, she was the novice and junior champion and finished as high as eighth in seniors before she went into pairs. “The international perspective was better in pairs,” Noennig said. “And I wanted to do something different. It was more interesting not to be alone on the ice and to have new elements o train. For 18 years, I did the same thing on ice.”
Ingo Steuer, the 1997 World pairs champion with Mandy Wotzel, coaches the couple, who train in Chemnitz. They work on ice for three to four hours a day, six days a week. Off ice, they spend another three hours each day either in the gym or jogging in the forest. Bleyer also cycles.
Steuer and former German ice dancer Hendryk Schamberger choreograph the couple’s programs. For the short program, they are using music from the “Kill Bill” soundtrack. Their free program is from the soundtrack of the movie “Armageddon”. “Hendryk found the music for both programs,” Bleyer said. “Many people said that as a new couple, we needed something completely different from our programs of last season. Normally, we would change one program each year.” Off ice, both skaters listen to rock and soul music. Bleyer also likes to listen to music soundtracks.
Both of the skaters are in the sports division of the German Army. Bleyer has been in the Army for eight years, while Noennig has only participated for about a year and a half. “The Army is a great sponsor for us,” Bleyer said. “We get paid mostly for just doing our training. We do our fighting on the ice for Germany.”
Noennig is studying economics and business management part-time and a two-and-a half-year university. She will finish after her examinations next March. After that she plans to continue studying social sciences and may work in her father’s construction business later. Bleyer plans to work either as a sports or history teacher or a policeman after he finishes skating. “Maybe I’ll teach some little kids skating in my free time,” he said.
Off ice, Bleyer likes going out with friends and using his computer a lot, both for the Internet and for games. Both skaters also like to play soccer with friends every day for a half hour as a warmup. Noennig enjoys going out with her friends, especially to the cinema. She also likes to go to auctions to buy antiques. She has a collection of antique dolls, many from the beginning of the 20th century.
Bleyer most enjoyed a trip to Brisbane, Australia where he saw many unusual animals. He would like to see more of Canada. Noennig most enjoyed China. “It was a completely different culture from Germany,” she stated. She would like to see Bangkok, Thailand and other countries that are quite different from Germany.