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Delobel, Roux announce they have baby on the way

French dancer still determined to compete at 2010 Games with Olivier 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
(04/23/2009) - There are many ways to prepare for the Olympic Games. The announcement made by Isabelle Delobel, 2008 world ice dance champion with Olivier Schoenfelder and one of the top contenders for the 2010 Olympics, was a huge surprise to the sporting world: Delobel is expecting a baby.

"This was not expected," Delobel explained with a smile. Ludovic Roux, a French skier, is the proud father. Roux had been dating Delobel for several years now. The couple plan to get married next June.

This announcement came as another good reason for the duo to end their competitive career. However, this will not be the case. Delobel and Shoenfelder thought of retiring one year ago, after they won their first world gold medal. In the end, they decided to keep skating until the 2010 Olympics.

Last December, however, Delobel severely injured her right shoulder during the ISU Grand Prix Final in Goyang City, Korea. She had to undergo a lengthy operation and a six-week rehabilitation process. Delobel and Schoenfelder won two Grand Prix events last fall, plus the Final, but they had to withdraw from the rest of the season, missing both the European and world championships.

Delobel's pregnancy has not discouraged her Olympic dreams. On the contrary, she said, "However unexpected the news came, I can assure you that I never thought this would force me to stop skating," she said. "You know, those pregnant woman's wishes ... They are just like the will for a special victory," she offered in a smile.

The baby is due next September, just five months before the Olympics.

Schoenfelder took the announcement with his legendary calm. "This is a huge surprise for me as well," he said. "Yet, I remain motivated in spite of this unexpected event. When you hear such news, you think that everything you had planned will come to an end. After a while, however, we said to one another that such a challenge would be possible. We are awfully motivated to reach the Olympic podium." He then added, with a bit of humor: "If we manage to reach that goal, it will be an even bigger event, like a triple medal!"

Fortunately, Delobel's shoulder seems to be in better shape now. "My shoulder is going much better," she confirmed. "And, I have now recovered its amplitude."

This has allowed the duo to start working on their new programs for next season. Their original dance is already on its way, and they should start working on their free dance at the end of May. Delobel and Schoenfelder will work with Marie France-Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, their former training mates in Lyon and twice world silver medalists, with whom they created their free dance last season as well.

Delobel and Schoenfelder are now preparing for their 20th season together. Delobel's half season off also helped the duo to prepare for next season's program earlier.

"Skating together for so long should help them for sure," Muriel Boucher Zazoui, their coach, stated.

Several skating athletes have won an Olympic gold after giving birth. Andrée Brunet won her second Olympic gold medal in pairs in 1932. Then Irina Rodnina won her third Olympic gold medal one year after her son, Sasha, was born. Ekaterina Gordeeva won her second gold medal after her daughter was born. Tatiana Navka also won her Olympic gold medal six years after her daughter was born. Yet, no one gave birth during the actual Olympic season they won their gold medal.

This in itself will be a true challenge for the French team.