More than 20 years after retiring from skating, Stellato-Dudek has Olympic dreams

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“I couldn’t believe I said (Olympic gold), because it came out without thinking,” Stellato-Dudek said. “I really thought that part of my life had been parked and I had moved on. So, I was in shock that I gave that answer.

“I thought about it for two weeks, the fact that it was something so clearly inside of me that I wanted.”

So she asked her mom to get her old skates out of the basement and she headed to a public skating rink in her hometown of Chicago.

It was the start of a remarkable comeback. She calls it “Career 2.0”. Last weekend, Stellato-Dudek and partner Maxime Deschamps won the ISU Grand Prix in Angers, France, making her the oldest skater, at 39, to win a Grand Prix title.

His dream is to represent Canada at the 2026 Olympic Games in Milan. She is American and has been released to compete for Canada at ISU events, including the 2023 World Championships in Saitama, Japan. She must be a Canadian citizen to compete in the Olympics, but she is confident

“(The Olympics) has been the focus with Maxim since the day of our partnership, which was June 2019,” Stellato-Dudek said. “And I have great confidence with my citizenship attorney that I will have (citizenship) in time for the 2026 Olympics.”

Stellato-Dudek stayed in shape during her 16-year layoff by doing Pilates, yoga, weightlifting and cardio. And despite the long years between the two, she was successful in all her double jumps on her first day back on the ice.

“I was very nervous about using them all, but muscle memory can be an amazing thing,” she said.

Working 12-hour days as a beautician, she would head to the rink at 4:30 a.m. to take some skating time. She finally felt confident enough to travel to Florida to meet her former trainer Cindy Watson-Caprel.

“I wanted her opinion…either she was telling me I was just completely crazy to think I could do this. Or if she said, ‘No, you really look like you could do this,'” Stellato-Dudek said.

It was a coincidence, she says, that Mitch Moyer, the high performance director of U.S. figure skating, was at the rink and instantly recognized her.

“He said, ‘If you want to get back into skating, I highly recommend you try out the pairs,'” Stellato-Dudek said. This is someone’s recommendation, I’ll give it a try. That’s what I did.”

Pairs posed many new challenges. She had to learn lifts and throws, including the triple twist in which, like human pizza dough, the man throws his partner up, she spins three times and he catches her.

“I actually really like elevators, and I’m lucky to like elevators, because I know there are a lot of girls who are very scared with elevators, and I don’t have it. ever done, and I give all that credit to both of my partners,” she said. “And I also really wanted to get it. Everybody’s like, ‘Oh, the twist, it’s so hard, it’s so hard,’ and I wanted to prove everybody wrong, and I wanted the obtain.

Stellato-Dudek originally competed with American Nathan Bartholomay. The two won bronze at the US Championships, but parted ways in 2019 due to his injuries.

She teamed up with Deschamps a few weeks later after traveling to Montreal for a trial with him. They won bronze at the Canadian Championships last season, despite Deschamps’ COVID-19 diagnosis preventing them from playing until a week before the event.

They started this season with a silver medal at Skate America behind reigning world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier of the United States.

“I’ll be honest, when they started, you never know where it’s going to go, everyone certainly knows how old they are at that point,” said Skate Canada high performance director Mike Slipchuk. . “But, the improvement they’ve shown this year, with both, is quite remarkable.”

Stellato-Dudek spends three hours each day post-workout doing cool-down, including yoga, stretching, cupping, wearing NormaTec compression pants, and sometimes ultrasound to quell any lingering pain in the stomach. egg.

“When you look at her there, you wouldn’t guess her age,” Slipchuck said. “And Max is a very strong guy in pairs, he always has been. He’s one of the best lifters we’ve had, and that’s a lot too. It’s a good partnership that kind of went together. reunited and we kind of see the fruits now of what they can do.

Stellato-Dudek said that while her comeback had nothing to do with being a role model or leading by example, she considers her story relatable for anyone feeling dissatisfied.

“I’m really lucky to be able to wake up every day and do what I’m so passionate about, and not everyone gets that in life,” she said. “Your life really changes when you actively pursue your passion every day, it doesn’t feel like work at all.

“And it’s not just sports. You can go back to school to become a lawyer or a doctor in your 30s if you want to, you can change and start a new career in your 30s. Life now is such that these things are possible, whereas maybe 20 years ago that was not the case.

With their two Grand Prix medals, Stellato-Dudek and Deschamps clinched a spot among the six teams for the Grand Prix Final, December 8-11 in Turin, Italy. The Canadian championships, which will determine the world championship team, will take place Jan. 9-15 in Oshawa, Ont.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 10, 2022.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

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