“I guarantee that with the same composition of participants, there will be a higher level of competition next season.” Interview with Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps

Posted on 2023-02-18 • 1 comment


Interview with Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps for Russian media. About the altitude in Colorado Springs, the differences between the old and new judging systems, the level of world pair skating, and the words of Olympic champion Meagan Duhamel, who believes it is wrong for senior athletes to perform double jumps and throws.

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source: Sport-express dd. 13 February by Anastasiia Pletneva

The Canadian pair of Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps took third place at the Four Continents Championship. This bronze is their main success so far in their joint career. Deanna has been doing pairs only for six years now. The figure skater began her career with the American national team as a single skater, won the Junior Grand Prix Final in the 1999/2000 season and silver at the World Junior Championships, and then left the sport for 16 years. She returned to pair skating and started competing under a new judging system. Stellato-Dudek tried to continue her career with the US national team but now represents Canada. The goal of the figure skater, who turns 40 on June 22, is the 2026 Olympic Games.

What do you think of your performance at the Four Continents Championships?

Deanna: I understand that we dropped from second place after the short program to third, but we are really happy with the free skate. For the first time, we tried to perform a side-by-side triple salchow. And because the event was held at a high altitude, there were additional challenges. I think I gave it a good try, given the altitude. Max usually lands this jump, so falling is an unusual situation. We had problems, but in general, everything was better than at Nationals. There is still work to be done to show the best skating at the World Championships. It’s better than peaking here.

Maxime: We understood that skating here would be difficult. Especially in the free program. So, I think we skated well.

Many people spoke about altitude-related issues. Were there really serious problems because of this?

Maxime: It was terrible (laughs). Everything burned, and it is very difficult to recover here. It was especially hard not at the beginning of the program but towards the end. Everything depended on the head because the physical strength was at zero.

Deanna: I’ve seen people almost die at the end of the free program, but for me it wasn’t that bad. I felt great when we arrived in Colorado Springs. The training went well. But the recovery was very difficult—every day I felt worse and worse. But that’s okay; it’s not just my opinion; it’s science. With the physical load that we had, it takes thirty days to acclimatize. No one fully adapted to the altitude. It was difficult, but I had been sick for the past three months, so now I’m not afraid of anything. I got used to not being 100 percent ready for the competitions (laughs).

Have you had a similar experience in your career performing at such an altitude?

Deanna: Only at a small one, one you don’t even feel. And here the altitude seemed to be five times greater. So I understand why the skaters felt very tired at the end of the program. For me, the problem was rather in recovery.

Deanna, you returned to figure skating about six years ago. Previously, you competed in single skating; now, you compete in pairs. What are your feelings?

Deanna: I feel great. Nothing comes easy; I knew it would take years of work. The skaters I’m now competing with have from 5 to 10 years of experience in pair skating. And I have only 1–2 years. I knew that I had to do a lot of repetitions of the same elements in order to catch up with them. One of my coaches once told me that my time would definitely come; I just had to keep working. It seems like my time has come. I hope it only gets better. Even in the last week, Max and I have gotten better at skating. Although we still can’t skate the free program clean, there are always some serious mistakes. But our scores are not bad scores. There is still room to grow.

You can be called an example for other skaters, especially now that the average age of athletes has dropped significantly. Do you feel like a role model?

Deanna: Actually, I don’t think about it. Sometimes people who quit the sport but want to come back come up to me. It means a lot to me that some of those whom we, it would seem, have lost can start performing again. Athletes end their careers, start families, and forget about sports, but it’s good if we can bring them back. Or there are those who think that they need to retire because they are no longer young, and then they see me … (Laughs). Of course, when I come to training, I don’t think about all this. I focus only on my goals, on our common goals with Max, and on what we need to do in order to climb the podium and get to the 2026 Olympics.

As a single skater, you competed under the 6.0 system, and after you returned as a pair skater, you competed under the new judging system. Which one is easier?

Deanna: They are very different. Especially because I had a long break from skating. I think the 6.0 system is easier to understand. The audience understood that 6.0 was the perfect score, the gold standard. If someone received such points, they applauded and supported them very vigorously. As for the new judging system, it looks like a hill. This is especially true in men’s single skating, where someone can get 150 points in a free program and another can get 250. The scores grow throughout the event.

For skaters, there’s another difference. I noticed it the most in my footwork. With the 6.0 system, the artistic component of the program was more important, so everything was in music. Now we need to approach the step sequences in more detail, make many turns, and other elements. Something in between these two systems would be perfect.

Maxime: It’s easier for skaters now. You understand where you are losing points and where, on the contrary, you are gaining them.

Well, and you know what level and why you got it. Let’s look at gymnastics. There used to be marks from 1 to 10, but now everything is different. After the transition, the audience did not understand what was happening; under the previous system, it was easier.

Perhaps the new system is like a different world.

Deanna: I needed to retrain. Previously, you could make any flying spin, put a tick that you completed it. That’s all. There was no need to change positions or anything like that. Now everything is much more complicated. You have to get used to it.

Maxime: Now the system is more objective than before.

Deanna: It’s more organized than the 6.0 system.

Is it difficult to adapt to the new system?

Deanna: At first, yes. When I competed as a single skater, there were no levels on non-jumping elements, and the footwork was different, as I said. There were no components in the sense we have them now. Just a technical march and a second march. And that’s it. Of course, it took time to get used to; it was necessary to adapt to the GOE, to understand how they are given, and to look at the protocols. At the same time, I was getting used to skating in a new discipline. I studied what levels there are in pair skating. And they have changed too, even since I started doing pairs. My first pair skating season lasted six months. Six months had passed before my first Nationals with my first partner. I needed to understand everything pretty quickly. But you adapt to everything, train every day.

After the Olympic Games, the competition dropped – someone retired, someone is not allowed to compete. Wouldn’t you like to have more strong competitors?

Deanna: Everything in life happens in waves. And the same is true for pair skating. In 2010, you could score 62 points in the short program and take sixth place at the World Championships. And in 2018, 64 points were the score you needed to qualify for the free skate. Everything develops and changes. Over the past 10 years, there have been many skaters who have not retired and have continued to skate and compete in their 30s. And then, between 2018 and 2022, they all retired. So now a combination of people who are not allowed to compete internationally and those who have retired is the reason for such a small decline in competition.

But this happens everywhere, for example, in the stock market. There is also a rise and a fall. Slowly, everything is returning to normal. I guarantee that with the same composition of participants, there will be a higher level of competition next season. This is not an anomalous situation; nothing always remains at the very top; it is simply impossible. In the last 10 years, pair skating has grown and developed, and now there is a slight decline. But everything will return. Kristi Yamaguchi jumped the triple lutz – triple toe loop combination in 1992, and then no one did the same element until the 2000s. In figure skating, this happens all the time. This is the normal life cycle.

Maxime: We often see this in all disciplines of figure skating.

Meghan Duhamel said on social media that she found it strange to see double jumps and throwouts in pair skating. Do you agree with her?

Deanna: Everyone can have their own opinion. We have been doing double salchows in all competitions before this event for reasonable reasons. We can get more points for a clean double jump than for a triple jump with a fall. Here we consciously took a risk and performed a triple, realizing that our scores could be lower. Each pair has its own strategy. At the same time, Meagan has a right to have her own point of view.

Maybe the reason is that now it is beneficial to perform simpler jumps? Clean doubles are worth more than attempts of triples; clean triples are worth more than lesser-quality quads…

Deanna: Actually, I did a quad salchow throw with my previous partner in 2018. And then the value of quads was lowered. Of course, everyone stopped performing such complex elements because they did not bring in enough points. The juice wasn’t worth the squeeze. It turns out that you need to spend a lot of effort—yours and your partner’s—to do a quad, but for this you will get a small number of points. But this is something that the International Skating Union must decide. If the value of the elements rises, then there will probably be more quads. But since the rules changed, it seems that the only pair who performed such elements were Wenjing Sui / Cong Han. And they already knew how to do a quadruple twist. And if they didn’t, they would probably think about whether it is necessary to perform an element that costs only 1.9 points more than a perfectly executed triple twist.

Maxime: And don’t forget about the risk of injury.

Deanna: It’s one thing to spend effort in order to learn something; it’s another thing to perform an element when you already know how to do it.

What are your next goals for the season?

Maxime: We always want to improve our results and get more points. We plan to come to the World Championships and show everything we are capable of.

Deanna: As I said, we haven’t skated a free program clean yet this season. We want to reach the peak of form at the World Championships and finally perform it without mistakes in order to finish the season with internal satisfaction. As for the short program, we had several good skates. Not here, but earlier in the season. So we want to skate clean twice and be proud of ourselves at the end of the season. Scores and places will follow. I think there will be serious competition for the podium at the World Championships. It will be interesting to see how it all ends.


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One response to ““I guarantee that with the same composition of participants, there will be a higher level of competition next season.” Interview with Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps”

  1. ioanykie says:

    Wow I really love the answers Deanna gives. She seems to know so many things !

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