Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fresh start for Domnina and Shabalin

Russia's Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin are the most unknown factor in the world of ice dancing for this season. How has Shabalin recovered from his knee injury that kept the couple out of the 2008 World Championships? What effect will their rather unexpected change of coaches and their move from Alexei Gorshkov in Russia to Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karpanossov in the U.S. have?

The Russians are even training with their close rivals Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto on the same ice with the same coaches. Now the European Champions are looking for a fresh start after Shabalin's injury and change of coaches.

Although last season brought the team their best results thus far, they paid a high price for their success. Shabalin was already suffering from a meniscus injury from the spring of 2007 and had underwent surgery on his right knee. He then came down with appendicitis and had another surgery later in September.

Nevertheless, the Russians worked hard to be ready for the Grand Prix, easily qualifying for the Final and winning the event. Shabalin, however, began to have problems with his other knee and needed surgery again in December. He managed to come back for Europeans, and although he was in pain and limped off the ice, the couple bested France's Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder to win their first European title. Perhaps Shabalin had risked too much.

Although Shabalin went into special therapy for his knee right after Europeans, the problems continued. He was in constant pain and not able to fully train. Finally, the European Champions and top contenders for the World Championships had to withdraw a few days before Worlds kicked off in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Full article.

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