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Delobel continues rehab of her injured shoulder

Appearance at worlds doubtful for Delobel, Schoenfelder

Isabelle Delobel and on-ice partner Olivier Schoenfelder say her pregnancy will not deter them from competing in Vancouver next February.
Isabelle Delobel and on-ice partner Olivier Schoenfelder say her pregnancy will not deter them from competing in Vancouver next February. (Getty Images)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(03/03/2009) - The question everyone involved in ice dancing seems to be asking is whether or not Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder, the 2008 world gold medalists, will be ready to go to Los Angeles to defend their title later this month at the 2009 World Championships?

Do not ask for an official answer right now, because no one seems to have one. However, with less than three weeks to go before the start of the event, the duo's participation now seems less and less likely.

"Whatever time [Delobel's recovery] takes, we need to make sure that the problem is completely fixed before we resume training", Schoenfelder stated in mid-January. "We would certainly not go to worlds if we were not fit to play something big. We do not want to go as tourists!" he had added in laughter.

As a matter of fact, Delobel has not yet put a foot back on the ice and is still in the healing process of her injured shoulder. She has left her training base in Lyon, France, for the rehabilitation center in Capbreton, a small resort on the Atlantic Ocean south of Bordeaux.

Delobel injured her shoulder during the gala exhibition at the ISU Grand Prix Final in December in Goyang City, Korea. The duo had been having a fantastic season, winning both of their Grand Prix assignments (Skate America and the Trophée Eric Bompard) and the GP Final. Since the injury, they have withdrawn from the French championships in December and the European championships in January.

Delobel underwent arthroscopic surgery on Jan. 5 and left the hospital on Jan. 9. The operation lasted about three hours instead of two, because the surgeons found that her injury was more serious than they had expected. It was hoped that her being an athlete would speed up the healing process, but her recovery is taking longer than expected, and she had to wait until the first week of February to start rehabilitation in Capbreton.

"You know how Isabelle is," Schoenfelder said. "It is tough for her not to move, because she is always so active. Actually, she wanted to start doing things again right [after her operation], but she almost fainted."

Recovering fast enough to go to Los Angeles for the world championships was "clearly the goal," according to Schoenfelder. As time passes by, though, this goal seems out of reach for the couple.

Schoenfelder, who is studying to become a journalist, has opened a blog for Delobel and himself -- delobel-schoenfelder.fr. On that site, Delobel describes her routines at the Capbreton center.

"We wake up everyday at 7:15 to have breakfast. At 9 a.m., I start with a machine that looks more like it is meant for torture than for rehabilitation. It moves my arm upward and downward for 30 min. Fortunately, I define the amplitude myself."

After that, Delobel goes through another half hour of physical therapy.

"Then I spend another hour trying to coordinate my arm again and leave for another hour of specific exercise in the swimming pool."

After lunch -- "fish every day, no one complains!" Delobel said -- she has to ice her joints and starts her work again.

"We work with a balloon and a rubber to strengthen my arm. Then we work on muscle tensions, which would hamper the joint movement. After that, we go for ultrasound, electro-stimulation and heart exercising, and we finish by training balance and stretching. I finish my day about 5:15 p.m. -- you see that I do not rest!"

Then she has to ice her shoulder again before the night.

"Isabelle is still having pain," a closed friend of hers explained.

In the meantime, Schoenfelder has kept practicing once a day and is still doing his physical preparation. He admitted that "this has allowed me also to devote more time to my studies and the school of journalism I am enrolled into." It has also allowed him to stay more with his wife and two-year-old son Gabriel.

Since Delobel's injury became apparent in late December, he has always been very supportive of his partner. "You know, Isabelle and I have lived through many strong events and difficult times together. We try to support one another through this period. I call her, send her messages to encourage her. This is not easy."

Even though it may prevent them from skating in Los Angeles and attempting to win a second world title, Delobel's injury should not jeopardize the duo's future.

"The doctor said that Isabelle's shoulder should recover 100 percent and even more," Schoenfelder explained. "It may sound amazing, but apparently the recovery process should even strengthen her shoulder from where it was.

"Even though recovering may take time, at least it does not put Isabelle's career in jeopardy. Actually, we were lucky to have this happen this season rather than next year. Our chances to win an Olympic medal then would have been severely damaged. And this is clearly our goal: win an Olympic medal. We will even have one more chance to win back our European title [in 2010]."

For the time being, the French team has planned to leave France in a bit less than two weeks. They are scheduled to practice in San Diego between March 15 and 21 before the world championships start. It appears quite doubtful that Delobel and Schoenfelder will be ready by that time.