Solène Mazingue began her career as an ice dancer in France, then joined Marko Jevgeni Gaidjenko in Estonia, a country they now represent. In the fall of 2022, Solène and Marko fell on a lift while training in Montreal. Solène was rushed to hospital, suffering from a skull fracture and intracranial bleeding. Through resilience and perseverance, Solène found her way back to the rink three months later. In March 2023, we saw them again on the ice of Saitama for the World Championships.
How did you feel at the World Championships?
Marko: Amazing! The Japanese public gave us a lot of support and energy. We took it all in like a sponge and tried to give it back to the audience. It was a massive milestone for us, and we were grateful for the opportunity to skate in front of an audience.
Solène: This performance meant a lot because it was our comeback. I wanted to prove to myself that I was okay. I had to learn everything again: walk, speak in English… Now I can walk, speak and smile!
Marko: I tried to support and help Solène as much as possible. The work she did these past five months was incredible. While in the hospital, she struggled to move but never gave up. She did all the exercises the doctors gave: balance exercises, concentration exercises... We used the book "Where's Waldo?" to practice concentration.
How long did you stay in the hospital?
Solène: Eight days, including five days in the intensive care unit.
When in the hospital, did you imagine you could skate at the World Championships the same year?
Solène: Three days after my accident, I asked the doctors if I could go to Worlds. I was thinking about it right away!
What was the most challenging step of your journey?
Solène: Going out of denial and understanding that I had an accident. At first, I did not fully understand what happened to me. Facing reality was very hard. It was a very dangerous accident. Then, going back on the ice was difficult, even if I wanted to! It meant going back to where I almost died.
Why and how did you decide to come back on the ice?
Solène: I started to skate when I was three and already had the Olympics at the back of my mind. I came back because I wanted to compete at the Olympics. And also because I love skating! I love the feeling of being on the ice, and I love skating with Marko.
You got a lot of support through social media.
Solène: I started to talk about my accident and my journey on social media to show that anything is possible and that if you believe in yourself and do not give up, you will succeed. I wanted to give everyone hope. I'm grateful for the support. I got a lot of messages from skaters and fans.
We saw messages of support from Guillaume Cizeron.
Solène: Yes! Everyone at Ice Academy of Montreal, my family, and Marko's family supported me. Guillaume helped a lot.
When was it clear that you could compete at the World Championships?
Marko: Solène came back on the ice in January, two months before the World Championships. At first, she was skating for 20 minutes a day. We then started to practice technical elements from our rhythm dance. After a while, we began to think that competing at the World Championships could be possible. We knew we would only skate the rhythm dance. The free dance was too dangerous, with many transitions and elements, including four lifts. Mentally it also would have been too much too soon. We needed to take it one step at a time. About two weeks before Worlds, Solène's doctors and our federation agreed that we skate the rhythm dance at Saitama.
Solène: If we had qualified for the free dance, we would have withdrawn. We did not come to Saitama to get a ranking. We just wanted to enjoy ourselves.
Solène MATHIEU - Skate Info Glace