France's Delobel and Schoenfelder have withdrawn from the European championships in order to keep their free skate under wraps until the Olympics, per CTV. This world champion pair has not competed since December of 2008. And they are skipping Europeans for strategic reasons. I cannot describe how annoying I find the following:
"For purely strategic reasons, related entirely to the element of surprise regarding their innovative new free programme, the FFSG took the decision that the couple will begin their competitive season at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver," read an FFSG statement.
FFSG is the French Federation of Ice Sports. My thoughts are that either Delobel and Schoenfelder are not ready for the Olympics following Delobel's childbirth (despite passing FFSG's readiness test) and are hoping for a miracle between now and then (or just hoping that no one catches on that they aren't ready by confusing us with their strategerie), or they really are just confident enough that they can waltz (literally) onto the Olympic ice without having tested these programs at all, and scoop up the gold.
I actually think this pair is great, but after having watching some fabulous teams compete in so many events this season, it will be kind of sad (but not surprising) to see any of them lose to a team we haven't seen at all, with a sparkly and distracting new program. But everyone has to make competition decisions for themselves, and I'm sure there will be much debate no matter who wins, as there tends to be in ice dancing. And I cannot WAIT for this Delobel and Schoenfelder free skate. It better live up to the hype that they are creating.
You can find a clip of the couple practicing to the free dance on the Golden Skate forums. The rumors are that the pair is skating to a french version of the Impossible Dream, and it will be quite emotional.