Gabrielle Daleman: “Why do so many people think I’m such a bitch?”
Interview with Gabrielle Daleman for Russian media. About difficulties she faced during her career, motivation to continue skating, age minimum and friendship with Evgenia Medvedeva.
source: sport-express.ru dd. 24th January 2021 by Dmitri Kuznetsov
Gabrielle Daleman: Oh, journalist from Russia! My grandmother is Ukrainian, is that considered, will I fit right in? My dad is German and Dutch, mom is English, Ukrainian and Irish. It’s cool that I have so many fans from Russia. I’m really happy, really!
I hope that questions from a Russian journalist won’t be more suspicious than from Canadian ones. Let’s start simple: Gabrielle, how was your did performance at the Four Continents Championships?
Gabrielle Daleman: Not ideal, there were mistakes. But I’m human, glad that I’m fighting. There was a very short break after the Canadian Nationals. It really hurts when you wait for one event, hope to qualify for the Olympics, and then you have to quickly rebuild, raise your head again and get back to the game again. But thanks to the Canadian federation for sending me to this event. This is probably my first international competitions in 2.5 years. After the coronavirus pandemic, injuries, surgeries. I’m just glad to be here.
Is there any chance that you will go to the World Championships? You became the best among Canadians.
Gabrielle Daleman: I cannot know this, the decision is made by the federation. Of course, I would like to go there. I’ve already lost count at how many Worlds I’ve been. I can only control what concerns me, the rest is out of my control. There is hope.
But now I’m the first substitute in the Canadian team for the Olympics. I gonna go home, live day by day, come what may. I have to prepare myself to perform in case of force majeure.
Does the Canadian team take substitute athletes to Beijing?
Gabrielle Daleman: No. So they will call me in Canada if something happens, and I will have to pack up overnight and fly. You have to react according to the situation.
I hope you are not tired of these questions, but where do you take motivation now?
Gabrielle Daleman: I find it thanks to the fans, family, my coach Lee Barkell. He is my world, just an amazing person! I wouldn’t be where I am now without him. And I also find motivation inside myself, of course. Because I always consider myself a dark horse, I want more. Even when things aren’t perfect, it directs me in the right direction.
And I like figure skating. When I was younger, I was bullied, humiliated (a mocking video was made about Daleman in her childhood because of her dyslexia and athletic appearance. – ed), but I managed to get out of this situation. Figure skating has become my motivation, joy and love. For me, everything broke down psychologically when I was diagnosed with mental health problems in the summer of 2018. And I remember putting on my skates and just going to the rink where I grew up, listening to the sound of blades cutting through the ice, the wind in my face. This sport saved me. I am very grateful to figure skating that I have something in my life that I love so much.
Is there any goal you will perform to? Olympics 2026? World Championships 2024 in Canada?
Gabrielle Daleman: Until the moment when I feel: that’s it, I’m over, that’s enough. I will live month after month, year after year. But I will continue to perform next season. I’m not going to listen to what people say, it’s their opinion. People don’t know me, they don’t know my story. They know what I tell them. And I will continue to say what I want. It will be my decision, because it’s my life, my body. I will perform for as long as I can. Thanks to my fans, they are amazing. And the haters should also be paid tribute to. They keep talking about me.
Do you have many haters?
Gabrielle Daleman: Yes, there are some. This is also a motivation for me. Because when you talk bad about me, I’ll go and prove otherwise. I know who I am as a person and as a skater. I know how cool I am, and I will continue to be myself. And this led me to where I am now: a multiple Canadian champion, a World Championships medalist and an Olympic champion (in the team. – ed.).
And why are you being hated? I can’t imagine.
Gabrielle Daleman: Well, you may be surprised, but this is their choice. Love me – love, no – well, ok.
You often perform with injuries. Before the Canadian Nationals, you were sick, shortly before the 2019 World Championships, you walked with a crutch. Why such overcoming?
Gabrielle Daleman: Oh, I’ve had a lot of bad things in my career. Problems with my right ear and right eye after a severe concussion and I didn’t know if I would ever be able to skate again, then I broke two ribs, other injuries… Many doctors thought that I would not be able to come back. But I really wanted to. A couple of months later, when I had not yet recovered, I lost my grandmother, who was my best friend. It was completely unexpected and terrible. Then I had to have a stomach surgery. And it was already necessary to return to the ice, although not everything was fine with the head because of that concussion. A lot has happened, in other words. And I turned 24 last week.
Then this pandemic happened … That is, not even the last year and a half was difficult, but all three years, almost the entire Olympic cycle was filled with some events, the most difficult in my life. But I have learned a lot during this time.
Many Russian skaters also skate with injuries, including in the best group of Eteri Tutberidze. It was with Shcherbakova, and with Trusova, and with Usacheva, and with others. What would you advise them as a more experienced figure skater?
Gabrielle Daleman: As a girl who grew up with a Russian coach, I know what you are talking about. I skated in Sochi with a stress fracture in my right leg. If everything is very bad (Gabrielle put it more harshly: “It sucks.” – ed), even if it’s scary to tell your coach, parents, and even yourself about the injury, still take a rest if you need it. The recovery time is much more important, because if you do not heal, the body will break down even easier. I have learned over the years that taking rest and recovery is just as important as training. If you don’t recover, you won’t be able to train normally. It’s hard to learn this, but necessary.
Is it a problem that, due to injuries, the careers of figure skaters are shortened? At the age of 17-18, the vast majority leaves sport, especially in Russia.
Gabrielle Daleman: It won’t be easy to comment here, because I do not want to say too much and something wrong. I am very impressed that girls land quads, it shows that everything that guys do, women can do too. But it breaks my heart when they get hurt so much because of it. Dasha at the Grand Prix in Japan, Sasha with her leg injury.
But it shows how much they want to move the sport forward, they have an incredible mission. Everyone would like to have such. On the other hand, it’s frustrating how quads shorten their careers. Because they are so talented, incredible! And it’s hard to see how easily they get hurt. This is true for all athletes. Even when I trained quads or my friends, you understand how easy it is to get injured if you don’t do the clean jump or if you make too many attempts. Because the body acts at a limit to which it is not adapted, in principle it should not be there!
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. I understand that this is a mathematical concept, but it applies here too. If you train more, you need more recovery, you need to understand this. If you do not rest, everything can collapse like a domino.
I understand it’s not you who decide, but should the ISU raise the age minimum because of this?
Gabrielle Daleman: Another difficult question, especially for me. But good one. I was 15 when I went to the Olympics in Sochi. But now when you look at the big picture, the quads, the changes in men’s and women’s skating, I think… (pause) we should raise the age. Still, this is a women’s competition. At 15 I was a girl, I was not treated as a woman. For the sake of safety, it is better to raise it, although there are arguments against it. Of course, it’s ISU who will decide.
As long as everyone stays healthy and understands the limits of capabilities, figure skating will be great. I think we need to take into account a lot of factors when making a decision. What about the fact that more and more young girls are injured? How important is mental health? I think we, as a global community, should take a step back and say to ourselves: “They are not just athletes, they are people.” A person is above all, not a sport.
The last topic might be tricky too, sorry in advance. Russian fans associate you with the work in the group of Brian Orser, where you crossed paths with Evgenia Medvedeva during the season. Then you left. There is a version that because of the coach’s too much attention to Evgenia. I’ve seen it on fan forums.
Gabrielle Daleman: Ha ha ha, for real? This is funny! I told you, people don’t know me. They can only know me if they are with me 24/7. I change all the time, how do you manage to interpret me? Are you walking with me everywhere? Why do so many people think I’m such a bitch? (Laughs.)
The answer is no, this is not the reason for my leaving the group. Absolutely not. When Evgenia came, everything was perfect! That year we were very close, Jason Brown came in, we had a real friendship! My training partner was Javier Fernandez, and when he left, Evgenia became the main partner on the rink. We got along great. She is the most beautiful person on and off the ice. I love her so much and miss her! Jason is also an incredible guy, so nice in any situation. I am very happy for him that he got into the Olympic team.
I can’t tell you the reason why I left, but what happened happened, my coach also left, we are now together in the Granite Club. I’m still a member of the Toronto Cricket Club, but also of the Granite Club. But Evgenia has nothing to do with it, I assure you. We are friends.
Do you miss her on the ice too? Maybe you should invite her back?
Gabrielle Daleman: Yes, I miss her at the competitions. Recently there was a video how we danced in the stands, on the ice at the 2019 World Championships. It was fun, so much cuteness in this video! I’m going to cry now, God (Gabriel’s voice really trembled). I miss Javi, I miss Evgenia, a lot of people! It was a wonderful time. And because of covid, it’s so hard to meet everyone. I love everyone and support them in what they are doing now.
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Great interview. I love this girl.