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Sur la Glace Online – News From France

Disappointment for Delobel and Schoenfelder

No doubt Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder hoped for a better way to end 2008 and to ring in the New Year in 2009 in good health.

After winning their two Grand Prix assignments, Skate America and Trophée Eric Bompard as well as the ISU Grand Prix Final in Goyang City, Korea, the team was on a winning streak.

But they were forced to withdraw from French Nationals and Europeans after Delobel suffered a sub-dislocation to her right shoulder during their gala performance in Korea.

Delobel is preparing for arthroscopic surgery to be performed later this month by Dr. André Lafosse in the city of Annecy, France.

“We could have waited until the end of the season,” co-coach Romain Haguenauer said. “But the damage could have been much worse if she suffered a new injury. As their performances in Korea showed they were ready so there would be no rush in getting them back in shape in time for the Worlds.”

Missing Europeans is a disappointment for Delobel and Schoenfelder who won the title in 2007. “Of course, missing the Europeans is a pity,” Delobel said. “We wished to regain the title but it could have been worse if the ligaments were broken. At least, after such a break, we will be fresh for Worlds in Los Angeles.

“If we can end the season like last year we would be very happy,” she added. The couple won the 2008 World title in Sweden a year ago.

Delobel said she planned to resume training two weeks after her surgery and hoped to be fully fit by the end of February.

Didier Re-Energized

Candice Didier had waited a long time to celebrate winning a third national title but the 20-year-old was victorious last December in Colmar, France.

“I was not even 15 when I was crowned the first time in 2002 and I won my second title a year later,” she recalled. “Did I realize then what it meant? I am not sure. So many people had high expectations for me that perhaps I was overwhelmed by the stress and the pressure.”

Didier has had an up and down career to date. At her European debut in 2004 she placed 25th in the short and failed to qualify. The following year she was hampered by a hip injury, but competed at Europeans and Worlds where she ranked 21st and 23rd, respectively.

In 2005 Didier left her longtime coach Carole Laguerre-Laplanche and relocated to Paris to work with coach Katia Krier-Beyer.

“Carole was like my second mother. I was closer to her than I was with my own Mom,” Didier admitted. “Only now do I have a true mother-daughter relationship with my mother Dorothée.”

In October 2005 Didier was sent to a pre-Olympic event in Vienna where she placed 19th.

Her failure to qualify for the 2006 Olympics was considered a disaster. “Candice and I had difficult moments after that,” Krier-Beyer said. “We had to reconstruct, to re-build her personality and her skating. Many told me that I was wasting my time with Candice but I believed in her.”

Krier-Beyer encouraged Didier to pursue her studies. Didier earned her Baccalauréat (an exam every French student has to take after completing high school) and this year entered Jussieu University in Paris to study biology.

Internationally, Didier has shown vast improvement this season, placing fourth at her ISU Grand Prix event, Trophée Eric Bompard.

“In my head, it was like a click. Finally I was able to show in competition what I was capable of during the practices,” Didier said. “I realized during Worlds in Gothenburg that I was not different from the others. I did not skate well in Sweden but I understood many things there.

“I know I have to improve my components,” Didier acknowledged. “My choreographer Dominique Molina is trying her best but my coach says I am too much of a thinker.”

Rising Star

Maé-Bérénice Meité is garnering a lot of attention in France these days.

Meité competed at her first event at age 7 and two years later was crowned French champion of her age group. She won the junior title at age13 and was the runner-up last December at senior nationals in her second appearance.

She discovered figure skating as a 4-year-old. “Maé-Bérénice came with her parents and seemed to like it,” longtime coach Christophe Moucheboeuf recalled. “I noticed her because she was very dynamic, faster and taller than the other kids and did not cry when she fell. She had this special quality of balance. She was like a cat.”

At age 14, Meité is already 5-foot-6½ and her dark complexion sets her apart. “My mom is from the Congo and my dad is from the Ivory Coast,” Meité explained.

Since the third grade, Meité’s school schedules have been adapted to her skating regimen. “I skate in the morning in Vitry and I follow my daily 9th grade classes at Collège Rognoni in Vitry,” she said.

Born in September 1994, Meité will not be eligible to compete at ISU senior events until 2010.

Right now, her sights are set on Junior Worlds in early March. “Participating at the Junior Worlds in Sofia will be gratifying for several reasons,” Meité said. “If I could be in the top 15 in my first appearance, I would be happy.”

Meité said she admires Mao Asada, Florent Amodio, Brian Joubert and Alban Préaubert. “And last but not least, Alexei Yagudin, as he had the whole package,” she said.