Monday, January 5, 2009

Delobel, Schoenfelder to miss '09 Europeans

The French Federation has announced that Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder, the reigning world champions in ice dancing, will not compete in the 2009 European championships.

Delobel injured her right shoulder during the exhibition at the ISU Grand Prix Final in Goyang City, Korea, in early December. The six-time national champions have not been able to skate competitively since and missed the chance to defend their title at the French championships.

Delobel was scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery in Annecy, a town in the French Alps, early this month. Only two weeks are left before the European championships, to be held in Helsinki, Finland, from Jan. 19-25, and Delobel will not be healthy enough by then.

Delobel and Schoenfelder were eager to compete at Europeans, because it was one of the few titles they did not win last season.

"We really wish to regain the European title we had won in 2007," Delobel had said earlier. Last year, the duo had to settle for the silver medal behind Russians Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin.

The current season had started strong for veteran team. They won every competition they entered -- Skate America, the Trophée Eric Bompard and the GP Final. They even seemed to be on the rise in Goyang City, where they won each segment at a competition for the first time in 2008-09.

Delobel and Schoenfelder should resume training in February, after roughly a month of rehab for Delobel's shoulder. This should still leave the duo ample time to get ready for the 2009 World Championships in Los Angeles in late March.

Their withdrawal from Euros leaves the door wide open for their successors as French national champions, Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, to make the podium in Finland. Pechalat and Bourzat have proved in the past that they could be strong contenders if they do not twist their steps or fall. Pernelle Carron and Mathieu Jost, ranked second in France, will be trying to improve on their ninth-place finishes from the past two years.

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