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Gold Medalists Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres Win Grand Prix Competition

Shala Yisrael
Shala Yisrael
05 Feb 2020

Vanessa James. Vanessa James is a Bermudian Olympic figure skater who competes for France. The history making skater is the first black woman to win the British National Championships. In 2010, along with partner Yannick, they became the first black couple to ever compete in Olympic pairs skating, placing 16th.

Country of nationality: United Kingdom; France
Vanessa James (born 27 September 1987) is a French pair skater. With skating partner Morgan Ciprès, she is the 2017 European bronze medalist and a five-time French national champion. They have also won medals in Grand Prix and Challenger Series competitions.With earlier partner Yannick Bonheur, James represented France at the 2010 Winter Olympics, placing 14th. She is also the 2006 British national champion in single skating.

Personal life
Vanessa James was born in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada. She lived in Bermuda until age 10 when her family moved to Virginia in the United States. She lived in the U.S. through 2007, holding an American permanent residence card, and then moved to Paris, France. Her father is from Bermuda, which enabled James to hold British citizenship. She became a French citizen in December 2009. Her twin sister, Melyssa James, has also competed in figure skating.

Early career
Vanessa James began skating with her sister after watching the 1998 Winter Olympics. She originally competed domestically in the United States and represented the Washington Figure Skating Club.

In 2005, James began representing the United Kingdom internationally. She won gold at the 2006 British Championships and silver in 2007, becoming the first British figure skating champion of Black African descent. She competed for Britain on the 2006 ISU Junior Grand Prix and at the 2007 World Junior Championships. Her last event as a singles skater was the 2007 International Cup of Nice where she won the bronze medal. In late 2007, James switched to pair skating, partnering briefly with British skater Hamish Gaman.

Partnership with Yannick Bonheur
James teamed up with French skater Yannick Bonheur in December 2007 after a three-day tryout in Paris. They began competing together internationally in 2008. James/Bonheur made their Grand Prix debut at the 2008 Trophée Eric Bompard, where they placed 7th. They placed 10th at the 2009 European Championships and 12th at the 2009 World Championships. In the 2009–10 season, they placed 6th at the 2009 Nebelhorn Trophy, 8th at the 2009 Cup of China, and 8th at the 2009 Trophée Eric Bompard. At the 2010 French Championships, they placed second in the short program and won the free skating to win the title overall. As a result, they were sent to both the Olympics and Worlds, where they finished 14th and 12th, respectively. James/Bonheur were the first black pair to compete at the Olympics. They ended their partnership in spring 2010.

In May 2010, James had a successful tryout with Maximin Coia and the two agreed to train in Germany with Ingo Steuer, but several weeks later Coia decided to end his amateur career.

Partnership with Morgan Ciprès
In September 2010, James began a partnership with Morgan Ciprès, until then a singles skater. They made no competitive appearances in their first season as Ciprès learned pairs elements.

2011–12 season
James/Ciprès made their competitive debut in the 2011–12 season. After competing at the 2011 Ondrej Nepela Memorial and 2011 Coupe de Nice, the pair appeared at their first Grand Prix together, the 2011 Trophee Eric Bompard, placing eighth, and then took the silver medal at the 2012 French Nationals. At the 2012 European Championships, James/Ciprès were eighth in the short program and sixth in the free skate, finishing sixth overall. They went on to place 16th at the 2012 World Championships.

2012–13 season
In the 2012–13 season, James/Ciprès won the bronze medal at the 2012 Nebelhorn Trophy — it was their first international medal as a pair. Their 2012 Grand Prix assignments were Skate America, where they placed fourth, and the Trophee Eric Bompard, where they came in sixth. James/Ciprès won another international medal at the 2012 NRW Trophy and followed that with their first national title in December. The pair then placed fourth at the 2013 European Championships and eighth at the 2013 World Championships. They also won the 2013 International Challenge Cup.

2013–14 season
In 2013–14, James/Ciprès were again assigned to Skate America and the Trophee Eric Bompard. Ciprès, however, underwent surgery after a wrist injury and had to avoid lifts for a period, causing the pair to withdraw from Skate America. They were able to compete at the Trophee Eric Bompard and placed fifth. The pair then successfully defended their national title. At the 2014 Europeans, James/Ciprès set personal best scores in both segments of the competition and came in fifth. They were named in the French team to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

2014–15 season
James/Ciprès finished fourth at the 2014 CS Nebelhorn Trophy and fifth at both of their Grand Prix assignments, the 2014 Skate Canada International and 2014 Trophée Éric Bompard. They then placed fifth at the 2015 European Championships in Stockholm and ninth at the 2015 World Championships in Shanghai.

2015–16 season
James/Ciprès began their season with a bronze medal at the 2015 CS Nebelhorn Trophy. They placed second in the short program at the 2015 Trophée Éric Bompard before the event's cancellation due to the November 2015 Paris attacks. The ISU deemed those placements to be the final results, awarding James/Ciprès their first Grand Prix medal, silver. The pair finished fourth at the 2016 European Championships in Bratislava and tenth at the 2016 World Championships in Boston.

2016–17 season
In June 2016, James/Ciprès relocated to Coral Springs, Florida, to be coached by John Zimmerman and Jeremy Barrett. After taking silver at the 2016 CS Autumn Classic International, the pair competed at two Grand Prix events; they finished fourth at the 2016 Skate America and won the bronze medal at the 2016 Trophée de France.

In January 2017, James/Ciprès won the bronze medal at the European Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic, becoming the first French pair in fourteen years to medal at the event (since 2003, when Sarah Abitbol / Stéphane Bernadis took silver).

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