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Delobel, Schoenfelder unlikely to skate at Europeans

If Federation approves, team will save programs for Olympics

Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder say they are in competition form for Vancouver.
Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder say they are in competition form for Vancouver. (Getty Images)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(01/07/2010) - Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder, the 2008 ice dancing world champions, had programmed their return to the competitive ice for the upcoming European Championships.

In the interview with icenetwork.com Thursday, they indicated that they may not compete there and save their new programs for the Olympics.

"Our objective for this season has always been the Olympics," Delobel explained. "We are ready to follow all the steps our Federation sets for us. If they consider that we have more chance to achieve our goal by skating at the European Championships, we will. If they feel otherwise, then we won't."

"We may not be ready to compete today, although we are working hard for this, yet we may be ready to compete next week," Schoenfelder added.

"Taking part in the European Championships is not a mandatory pass." Muriel Zazoui-Boucher, who coaches the duo in Lyon, concluded.

It has now been one year since Delobel and Schoenfelder withdrew from competitive skating. Delobel injured her right shoulder during the exhibitions at the Grand Prix Final (which the duo had won in December 2008). The rehabilitation process took longer than expected, and forced Delobel and Schoenfelder to withdraw from Europeans and worlds in 2009. Delobel announced her pregnancy later that spring. She gave birth to a baby boy, Loïs, early October, before resuming training later that month.

The duo skated in two galas during the holiday season. Thursday they came to Paris for a skating test in front of some representatives of the French Federation, where they skated their original dance to a enthusing French Can Can. Although far from perfect, it showed that the duo was undoubtedly back on track for what will be their 20th season skating together.

After they finished their skate, they took the time to describe their current shape and the status of their programs.

About getting back on shape
Isabelle: We train each session at 200%, as if we were to compete the next day. Each day there is a new step forward. My shoulder is well monitored by my medical staff, which is very present around me. I just do not think of it and go ahead. The most difficult part for me after Loïs' birth was probably my adductor muscles. I did not think they would suffer that much. The main difficulty was then to rehabilitate my whole body and coordinate everything to work together.

Olivier: Coming back after such an injury, then after giving birth to a baby, was quite a challenge and we both knew it would be difficult. Well, it was very difficult! But I feel that our physical problems are now completely behind us. We do see improvements literally day after day.

Isabelle: As for my weight, it is no problem for me. Although I can assure you that I did not eat much during the holiday season (she laughs)! My nutritionist and therapist are overseeing it carefully. We are training a lot and work very hard day after day. We arrive at 7 am at the rink and skate 2 to 3 sessions every day, that is 5 to 6 hours, at the very least 4 days a week. After that, we get physical preparation, where we go together. Then I have some medical work until 7:30 p.m., to work on getting back on shape. Every day is better, and again it is so visible for us and for everyone.

About their programs
Isabelle: Our free dance looks like us, indeed. It is our story. As you may know, we are skating it to "La quête" (or "the Quest", a song from the late Jacques Brel, a famous Belgian singer from the 1960s and 1970s). Yet we do not want to disclose it too soon. It will be a big surprise!

Olivier: That free dance is very special to us, and it will be very moving. It is however not as complex as the "Piano Lesson" (the free dance they had skated to their world gold medal in 2008), so skating it once only in the season will be enough for everyone to understand it.

Isabelle: Our technical elements are now completely there. I kept skating until I was eight months pregnant. It allowed us to create both our programs in the early summer, yet we did not include the lifts in the free dance for obvious reasons. So Marie-Pierre Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon (who claimed two world silver medals in 2006 and 2007 and trained in Lyon with Delobel and Schoenfelder at that time) came back to Lyon in early December in order to work on them with us.

Olivier: Also, judges are coming to visit us regularly during practice in order to monitor our progression and pay attention to the latest developments of the sport. So much has happened in the last year. Their advice is important to us. They boost us and comfort us.

Isabelle: We are now on the right track, our technical elements are good, I have regained everything I needed to, we have fun skating both programs and everything is going well. What I need to get back is my own charisma.

Olivier: Now we can skate both our programs from end to end, and we do it every day. This is already quite a victory. Now we need to make them more automatic and fluid.

Isabelle: What we really need to do now is to rehearse our programs over and over. This is exactly what we will do until the Olympics.

Delobel and Schoenfelder will announce their final decision on Europeans in a few days.