Deanna Stellato-Dudek never could have imagined that the best was yet to come when she quit figure skating at seventeen, having won a silver medal in the world junior competition but suffering from a series of hip problems that rendered her unable to compete.
Stellato-Dudek, now 40 years old, and Maxime Deschamps, a Canadian pair partner, have achieved a miraculous return that has led them to be rated first at the International Skating Union Grand Prix Final in Beijing this week. A chance exercise on a corporate retreat seventeen years ago catalyzed the comeback.
“There is no age limit,” she adds, “when it comes to passion.” “I have such a passion for it,” Stellato-Dudek said in an interview with Reuters. ” My daily trip to the rink is something that I eagerly anticipate. I will be recovering during the night, and I am looking forward to it. My favorite aspects are day-to-day work, constant pursuit of improvement, and constant testing of oneself.
When you were younger, the activity you participated in happened to be something your parents drove you to. You might come to an understanding of how much you cherish it if it were taken away from you, she said.
“But as an adult, you do this because you love it. Otherwise, you just flat out wouldn’t do it.”
During the current season, Stellato-Dudek and Deschamps have not suffered a single loss. They had triumphed in both their Grand Prix assignments and the season-opening Autumn Classic when they defeated the incumbent world champions, Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara.
While Stellato-Dudek worked as a medical aesthetician in 2016, she was asked to respond to the following question during a work retreat exercise: “What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail?” Stellato-Dudek had previously competed for the United States in the singles skating competition.
She said, “You should win a gold medal at the Olympics.” When Stellato-Dudek returned to Chicago, she went to her mother’s basement and collected her old skates. She then started “Career 2.0,” mixing her 12-hour work days with her 4:30 a.m. skating sessions.
Stellato-Dudek dreams that her brave decision to change careers will be an example to others.
I did not give up my employment when I made the decision that I wanted to pursue this endeavor. I didn’t act in an illogical manner at all. Every day, I had to demonstrate to myself that if this was something I truly desired to achieve, I had to take action to get me closer to achieving my objective,” she explained.
“In a figurative sense, I attempted to construct a chain link fence, and my objective was to ensure that the chain was never broken. Therefore, even if I could not eat any ice on a Sunday, I would stretch or do anything else to improve my condition to be better prepared for the next day of my ambition.
Athletes of a more senior age
She is hardly the first athlete to resume their profession after a lengthy absence. Gabby Douglas, an American gymnast, returned to competition after a hiatus of seven years and has stated that she intends to compete in the Olympics in Paris.
Stellato-Dudek thinks that it is advantageous for senior athletes. He stated that she is now more familiar with her body, so she takes better care of it.
Following a tryout in 2019, she joined forces with Deschamps, who had previously been in relationships with eight people. Their gelling occurred practically immediately.
Among the challenges they have encountered are the following: waiting for Stellato-Dudek to be released from the United States Figure Skating Association so that she can compete for Canada; the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused rinks in Quebec to close and made it difficult for people to travel across the border for almost a year; and a respiratory illness that forced her to miss three months of competition during the previous season.
Stellato-Dudek must get Canadian citizenship to compete in the 2026 Olympic Games in Milan. Even though they can compete for Canada internationally, including at the World Champions in March in Montreal, Deschamps’ hometown, and their training center.
She has complete faith that she will get it promptly. However, she will not be the oldest figure skater in the Olympic Games. The British athlete Edgar Syers holds the record for being the oldest Olympic medalist in the sport. 1908 when he was 45 years old, he and his wife Madge won bronze in the pairs competition.
Eric Radford, a skater from Canada, was the oldest competitor at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. He was 37 years old.
Stellato-Dudek stated that participating in Milan “at 42 years old, having taken 17 years off” is a success in and of itself. This is even though the ambition of Olympic gold was the reason for a comeback.
If I were to include it on my résumé from this point forward, it would be a reasonably outstanding line item. Moreover, it is an excellent way to start a discussion.