American Diana Stellato Dudek is the oldest champion in the history of figure skating
Stellato Dudek and Maxime Deschamps reach the gold medal. He's 32, she's 40 – and will celebrate her 41st birthday on June 22. – I didn't think about becoming the older heroine, of course not – she says. – On the other hand, I knew that achieving my dream would be equal to this, because there is no greater athlete than me. I am proud of what I have achieved, but above all I hope to be a role model for women, not just those who play sports. She appealed: Please do not give up on your dreams, it is not too late to achieve them.

After the decoration, an unusual scene occurs – the bronze medalist, German Minerva Fabian Haas, 24, bows before Stellato Dudek. “Diana, I have the utmost respect for what you do,” he declared.

Great performance by Stellato Dudek and Deschamps in the short program at the World Figure Skating Championships

Injuries are a nightmare

She impressed in the junior category, excelled in the soloists competition, and became vice-world champion in this age group. Injuries were her nightmare. The most serious of them are a fracture of the left ankle and a rupture of the ligaments of the right ankle. The fatigue only increased. I'm tired of the constant breaks and returns, this daily struggle, this system. In 2001, when she was 17, she gave up and told her mother that she couldn't cope anymore.

She finished her studies, became a beautician, and married Michael Dudek, who is of Polish origin. I've only watched figure skating on TV. These thoughts that she left her early and that she did not achieve what she wanted to achieve began to come more and more over time. They did not give her peace, nor did they allow her to sleep.

That's when I found old skates in the basement, and that's when I started training at 4:30 a.m., before work. She had never thought of becoming a soloist, as this competition was out of reach. I focused on sports pairs – as opposed to dancing pairs. In sports there are jumps, which are risky and pose a risk of injury, as the partner lifts the partner and even throws her high above the head. Amazing and dangerous.

The problem turned out to be finding a partner. Frankly, no one wanted to train with a retired athlete who imagined she would suddenly and unexpectedly come out of retirement. They finally reached an agreement with Nathan Bartholomay, an Olympian from 2014. They even surprised themselves with their results, winning two bronze medals at the US Championships. And then – Bartholomew's injury. and forced termination of cooperation in 2019.

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Diana Stellato Dudek and Maxime Deschamps

Photo: Getty Images

“Diana is a fighter, she can do it.”

Stellato-Dudek wasn't going to give up. not now. “I called every coach I knew and asked them if they had heard that anyone was looking for a sports partner,” she says.

Deschamps was looking for her, a Canadian from Quebec, eight years her junior, who had also had a successful junior career. Stellato-Dudek put everything on one card, and things have already gone to the point of not doing that. She moved from the Chicago suburbs to Montreal and she and Deschamps began training.

The result – you know, the World Series.

What now? What then? The answer is clear. “I am interested in an Olympic medal,” she announces directly with an open remainder. Diana is a fighter, she can do it. What's more, she enjoys skating so much that she competes in the Olympics every day, he says.

What about citizenship? Stellato-Dudek is now competing in Canadian colors thanks to approval from skating authorities – both national and international. In Olympic competition, this would not be possible according to the regulations. When they started training together, they agreed that she would try to get the Canadian, because his efforts with the Canadian would take much longer. I'm still waiting.

– I am optimistic, I will definitely receive them on time – she declares. The next Winter Games will be hosted in 2026 in Italy, and Stellato Dudek will be approaching his 43rd birthday. She is the oldest world champion, but not an Olympic medalist. Briton Edgar Sears was 45 when he and his wife, Madge, won the bronze medal in — note — 1908. At the last Olympics — Beijing 2022 — the oldest skater was 37-year-old Canadian Eric Radford.

cnn.com, Reuters, eurosport.pl

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