After major injury, eager Silete can't live without ice

Two-time French champion shows resolve, dreams of 2013 Skate America

Yrétha Silété was on a roll before the injury, winning French titles in 2011 and 2012.
Yrétha Silété was on a roll before the injury, winning French titles in 2011 and 2012. (Getty Images)


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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to
(09/17/2012) - It has been just five weeks since two-time French champion Yrétha Silété was severely injured during a practice session. Though she is now ready to leave her rehabilitation center in the Alps, she does not plan to be back on the ice before January at best. Both Silété and Claude Péri, her lifelong coach in Paris, took the time to update on her condition.

Péri was by Silété's side when the accident occurred.

"It was such a stupid accident," Péri conceded. "Yrétha was going full speed before a jump, and another skater was just doing the same in the opposite direction. Yrétha fell down and her knee turned around."

Péri stayed by the side of her star skater until rescue arrived. Silété broke one of her crossed ligaments, injured a lateral one and damaged one of her menisci.

"At first I was so distressed," Silété explained. "Now, after a few weeks, it's going better. Of course I am very disappointed not to do this season. I had good Grand Prix assignments and I will not be able to defend my national gold medal. But my main goal now is to come back in good shape."

Silété and Péri had joined a training session for the whole French team in the renowned ski resort of Courchevel, in the French Alps, when the accident occurred.

"At least I will have learned one thing," Silété said half-laughingly: "You need to be very cautious on the ice, especially when you are left-handed as I am. Most skaters are right-handed, so we do not start our jumps from the same side."

There are several good reasons for Silété to feel better now.

"After one month," Péri said, "Yrétha's lateral ligament is already sound again, and her crossed ligament has been replaced. She was taken care of by a very good team, who specializes in winter sports.

"She has remained in Hauteville, in the Alps, for her rehabilitation. They know how to help her keep her muscles active, so she does not lose too much. Also, she is not alone there. There is also a young skiing champion.

"Injuries are unfortunately a part of a champion's life," she added.

"I have two rehab sessions every day," Silété said. "In between, I can study for my Baccalauréat next June. Also, when the weather is nice I can go out."

While Silété feels lonely at times, she is not expected to stay much longer in Hauteville and should be back with her family by the end of this week.

Silété has risen fast in the world standings since her junior debut.

"I have been working with Yrétha since she was a child," Péri recalled. "We both live in Dammary-les-Lys, where I grew up myself, (a small city between Paris and the forest of Fontainebleau). Yrétha has incredible athletic and physical qualities; you could notice right away. She is explosive in her gesture and has tremendous jumping abilities. Also, Yrétha is very hard-working and dedicated."

Silété won the French national gold medal at her first shot in 2010. She had a promising showing at her first junior world championships a few months later (11th), and won the French gold medal again in 2011, ahead of her arch-rival, Maé-Bérénice Méité. Méité and Silété are good friends on and off ice, and they like to laugh together.

"It's always funny to see that people [get the two of us mixed up]," Silété said. "We are both black, but we are so different from one another!"

Silété won eighth place in the free skate in her senior worlds debut last spring in Nice. She ended up 12th overall.

"It was wonderful to live such a great competition with so many supporters around," Silété said.

"In fact, she was mostly mad at herself because she missed her short program," Péri said. "She was just one jump away from 10th place overall. That would have meant gaining a second quota for the team (France has only one quota for worlds in the ladies field).

You know, Yrétha is quite ambitious and she is not into sports to end up 11th our 12th. In Nice, she could realize that her jumps were very important and that she needed to work more on her components."

"I have seen that I was able to do good things", Silété added. "This will help me a lot in the future and even for my rehabilitation; you need to be strong in your head. Also when you are in hospital!"

"There is always something to gain from an injury," Péri continued. "I hope this will give her additional strength. If she is strong enough to come back on the ice, then she will be much stronger after this. She has everything she needs in herself."

"Sure!" Silété admitted. "Next season, I really want to come back stronger."

"We're not going to fight to come back one month earlier than we should," Péri assured. "I want her to take the time she needs."

Péri has relocated to the Paris arena of Bercy (where the Parisian stage of the Grand Prix is held) for practical reasons, "although the club of Dammary has always been very helpful and supportive to us," Péri mentioned.

"In Bercy, Yrétha has a special coach for components who comes once a day to work with her. Nowadays, the best skaters win often thanks to components, especially in the ladies. Yrétha has always been very feminine and I encouraged her in that direction. She likes working on her choreography and interpretation. Between May and June, actually, she focused mostly on components, without even a single jump."

Silété does not know yet if she will carry the two programs she had devised for 2013 over to 2014.

"It's too early yet," she said.

"As usual, we had well anticipated for this coming season," Péri explained. "We started from a music Yrétha loved. She usually can come to me anytime in the season and say, 'I love this one, what do you think?' Then I go deeper into research and we consolidate the project."

Among Silété's dreams for the 2013-14 season is a selection to Skate America.

"I went to the U.S. only once," Silété recalled. "It was my first Junior Grand Prix, and I loved it. The audience was so cool and supportive. I would love going again.

"By the way," she added, "I would like to thank warm-heartedly all those who support me. I could see in Nice how much the audience's support can bring. Also, it's nice to feel that some people are caring for you even when you are in a bad shape."

When the time came to conclude the interview, a nurse entered into Silété's room and asked: "Do you need anything?" "Oh yes," Silété replied. "I would need some ice, please."

A champion skater obviously can't live without ice. Silété won't quit.