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French speed skaters competing in Utah react to news of Paris attacks

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Posted at 10:06 PM, Nov 13, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-14 00:06:51-05

KEARNS - Thousands of miles away from home, French speed skaters watched news of the terrorist attacks in Paris from their hotel rooms in Salt Lake City. The team was in town Friday for the Apolo Ohno Invitational, which featured ice skating teams from China, the U.S., Canada, and France.

"It's very hard," said Tristan Navarro, a French skater who lives less than an hour from Paris. "We cannot be focused on the ice. It's not possible."

As the terrorist attacks continued throughout the afternoon, the team said the news was difficult to process.

"The first reaction is 'Wow, it happens again,'” said Vincent Geanna, another member of the French team.

"I couldn't believe it when my friends said it was happening," Navarro agrees.

Navarro's mother and friends live close to Paris. He said he tried texting and calling them all afternoon, but had difficulty getting in touch until just before they took the ice Friday night.

“I’m worried about my family," Navarro explained. "Just called my mother now, she’s OK."

The two skaters said they were watching local television Friday as President Obama voiced the United State's support for France. The skaters said that was a heart-felt gesture. Taking the ice Friday night, they got an even warmer gesture from local fans.

"They are so supportive," Geanna said as they took the ice to the sound of applause.

Despite Friday's news, skaters said they never once considered postponing or pulling out of Friday night's Invitational.

"I can’t do something in Paris," Geanna said. "So, I want to do something here for my country. My job is skating, so I have to skate for my country."

The skaters said they normally fly home the day after the event, but, at the moment, the French border remains closed. They said they will have to stand by and wait for word on when it's OK to go home.