Double stardom dazzled over northwest B.C. with world skating champions Elvis Stojko and Gladys Orozco cutting up the ice as special guests in the Terrace Skating Club ice show on March 10 and in the Snow Valley Skating Club show in Kitimat on March 12.
Both shows were sold-out venues, with Terrace arena selling out more than 867 seats and showcasing 75 skaters.
Two-time Olympic silver medal winner and six-time World Champion medal winner, Stojko is married to Orozco, who started as the youngest competitor to grace the Mexican national figure skating team for more than 10 years. She collected two junior and two senior national titles and represented the country in the 2020 World Championship in Japan.
The couple spoke with Black Press Media after the first show and said the past two years during the global pandemic have been challenging.
They’ve seen many of their competitive ice skating friends transition back to careers they had before performing or being coaches.
“However, Elvis never stopped. It was all fine. He was like, ‘I’ve got to keep going,” Orozco said.
“The big thing was the motivation,” Stojko said.
“There was nothing to keep you inspired or get you going … there were no seminars, no travelling. It was so easy just to drop it off, ” Orozco said.
“We just kept going. It was just something I stayed focused on, and dryland trained. I just tried to stay focussed and positive every day,” her husband said.
Stojko said he and his wife started skating when they were four years old.
He compared it to gymnastics and said it is a sport that consumes your life.
“It’s a full-time job,” he said. “With most athletics, there is a level of skill that is needed. I call it a perishable skill. So if you are not on it every single day, you will lose the feeling. It goes away… So taking time off is very difficult. That is something that is a challenge — especially at my age.”
Stojko is 50 on March 22. Orozco is 39 this year.
“I have to stay on top of it every day. Before, I could maybe get away with an extra day off, but now I can’t do that. I have to stay in that rhythm,” he said, adding during COVID that was difficult to do, and despite physical training, there is nothing like training on the ice.
“The big thing is when you lose that sensitivity and that feeling of being on the ice — because it’s not a natural thing, nothing can replace it,” the Olympic champ said. “You can get strong and stay in shape to a degree, but you will not be in skating shape, and that is a very different thing.
When the couple is asked to do shows or go on tour, they said there is a lot of preparation needed beforehand.
They can’t simply “get on the ice next week and do programmes.”
“It’s months and months and months of training to prep for something like this,” he said of their trip to northwest B.C., and it’s challenging because of the time needed to maintain the necessary level of fitness.
“It’s definitely a full-time job,” Orozco said.
The Mexican champion said ice shows like the ones performed by the skating clubs are an opportunity for young skaters to learn that there are different avenues for every skater because the Olympics or competition may not be the end goal for someone who just loves to skate.
“It actually allows them to see that skating is about the art and the music, and the costumes and the lights … There’s so many things you can become besides a figure skater,” she said, offering options such as costume designers, choreographers or working with travelling ice shows.
Stojko said going to small towns and venues like in the northwest is very inspiring because when he returns years later, kids he has previously met have grown up and are working in areas they love.
“There are kids that are really great at competing. They love the thrill of being in competition. There are other kids who don’t like that, and they just want to be in the performance of it. They don’t want to worry about competing against someone else,” he said.
“A lot of those kids are now doing tours with Disney or going with Holiday on Ice or going on a cruise ship performing. They can make a great career out of it. And then from there become a coach or choreographer. They can build up financial stability through all of that and then have a great career.”
A word of advice that the skating icons give to young skaters is not to get lost in the “craziness.”
“The biggest thing is to always follow your heart, follow what you want. That’s the biggest thing,” Stojko said. “And remember the reason why you started doing it. The love of the sport, the love of skating, can sometimes get lost with all the other distractions that can go around with it.”
He said he is thankful that social media and the internet were not around when he was younger and still competing.
“Skating was so massive it would have drove me nuts, especially with the bullying online and all that other stuff.”
While “follow your heart” is a simplistic answer, he admits it is not that easy to do.
“It’s difficult to do it no matter how easy it is to say ‘just follow your heart.’ You’ve also got to know where your heart is, what it’s saying. Is it your gut? Is it truly your heart? Is it someone speaking in your ear that you’ve been programmed?”
It takes time and is a process in itself to “unlearn all that stuff you don’t need and just listen to your core,” the ice icon said.
“That takes experience. You got to fall down. You got to get up. You got to make mistakes. You got to do all of that stuff,” Stojko said. “But that’s part of the learning. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Don’t be afraid to fall down. Because it’s not about falling down — It’s what you do after that point, and you decide to pick yourself up, and you do it over again.”
K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist
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