Nothing wrong with wanting to be the best in the world. And saying so. And turning over every stone to do it.
What seems crazy is that Deanna Stellato Dudek is 40, and left the sport for 16 years for the skin care business. And her partner, Maxime Deschamps, 31, has lived through a multitude of partners without success. This has never been the recipe.
It seems an impossible dream but the two of them continue to improve and launched their campaign without saying sorry for taking up world space at Skate Canada International Grand Prix in Vancouver, second stop on the Grand Prix series.
Stellato Dudek screamed when their free skate mark of 142.39 popped up onto the screen, blasting a hole in their previous best of 131.82 from the Autumn Classic, where she and Deschamps defeated world champions Rika Miura and Ryuichi Kihara.
She knew the score should be good because their free was basically spotless (except when she landed her triple Salchow on two feet). And their free skates in the past have been riddled with mistakes. Many mistakes. Not this time. Both she and Deschamps pumped their fists at the end of their free and coach Josee Picard jumped up and down at the boards. But this?
Their final score of 214.64 was also worth a gasp or two. Their season’s goal had been to reach 210-215. And they reached it at their second competition in early season. The sky seems the limit.
They won gold by 26.86 points (over a light field.)
“I’m very happy with today’s performance which is a rarity for me,” Stellato Dudek said. “It’s still early in the season but we’ve been waiting for a performance like this for years.
“We were sick of it last year and never skating even close to a clean long program, so we worked really hard to be able to put this out today.”
They even have a theatrical coach. It is said that Stellato Dudek enters each day of training with the mindset that it’s an Olympic Games day.
Deschamps was glowing too. “I am also extremely happy,” he said. “All the hard work paid off. It’s a feeling of ‘We’ve made it” at the end of the program.”
They are not going to stop there. He says they hope to keep increasing their score as the season wears on.
Stellato Dudek last competed at Skate Canada International 23 years ago as a singles skater for the United States. She finished fifth. Now she’s a champ, with the powerful Deschamp on her arm.
The moment the free skate started, the crowd was in for a powerful moment. The music, to “Interview with a Vampire,” was ominous and frightful. Then they went off and did the only level four triple twist in the event. Deschamps loves twists. They got 1.97 GOE for it, giving them a total of 7.97 for that one element.
Jumps are the nemesis of many pairs, but Stellato Dudek and Deschamps did a triple toe loop – single Axel – single Axel, worth 9.62 marks. This series is new for them.
Their money makers were the lifts and they always try to do the most difficult lifts possible. Their Axel lasso lift got 2.30 bonus points for 9.30 points and their reverse lasso was similar: 2.20 GOE for 9.20 points. The Group 3 hip lift at the end, scary for sure, has Deschamps holding Stellato Dudek at a small point in her back in the palm of his hand. That got them 1.89 extra points.
They are most excited about this free program. Picard came up with the idea of a vampire theme. So Stellato Dudek, being Stellato Dudek, read all of the books, watched all of the movies, and all of the television shows to get a grip on it.
She did not want to do Dracula. She did not want to do Vampire Hunter. Too difficult to show. “So we decided on something that nobody has ever done before,” she said. That left “Interview with a Vampire” starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. A vampire encounters a grieving man, who agrees to be bitten and go into the vampire fold. But he immediately regrets it and the relationship between them is eternally tumultuous. One vampire burns up. But vampires apparently never die. And they keep coming back, for more misery.
Stellato Dudek bites Deschamps in the middle of the program (apparently just before their rare forward outside death spiral) and there is to be a costume change to show the change in their positions. We haven’t seen the costume reveal yet. There was difficulty with it at Autumn Classic.
As for Deschamps, he was of the attitude: “What idea do you have now?”
But Stellato Dudek always wants to do something different. She says she is in training to become a technical caller and then a judge after she retires. “That’s what I would like to offer back to the sport,” she said.
She said that when she talks to judges, she tells them she does not know how they do it: there are 30 teams (on a good day) all doing the same elements, particularly since quads have been devalued and are just not worth doing any more. “So everyone is basically doing the same thing,” She said. “And everyone is skating to a contemporary slow song 30 times in a row. Isn’t that boring for you?”
Stellato Dudek doesn’t want to make anything boring. So they are vampires, not having the best time together. And they skate that theme with new speed and power.
Now they want to add new things every year and not get stagnant. “We want to get to the point where we are constantly coming out every year looking different, keeping up with the Jonses, but technically also showing something that is special. “
With this mindset, they are becoming the story of the year. They got a tumultuous standing ovation at Skate Canada. They are no longer in the shadows. They are out front, blazing to the top.