Getting back to the national stage has not been an easy road for Newmarket figure skater Gabrielle Daleman.
The 24-year-old has had several injuries in recent years, most recently on Aug. 12, with what she described as a sideswipe on the highway leaving her sidelined from a weekend competition. Like all skaters, she has also had to deal with competitions cancelled due to the pandemic, also facing a bout with COVID-19 herself earlier this year.
“It seems like every time I was on the way back, something happened,” she said. “But my main goal is to take it one competition at a time, really enjoy skating … Just remember why I love this sport."
Despite some struggles, Daleman earned a spot on the Skate Canada national team this summer for the 2022-2023 season. This came after a third-place finish in the women’s category at the national championships in January and will earn her a spot on the team until at least June 2023.
“It feels amazing,” she said. “It’s been a few difficult years, but I just stayed focused. I haven’t really let anyone tell me what I can and can’t do, what I can and can’t achieve. I haven’t let anyone tell me that my whole life. I’ve always known what I wanted and just stayed focused.”
Daleman is a decorated international figure skater, having earned gold in the 2018 Olympics as part of the team competition. She also earned bronze at the world championships in 2017, a silver at the Four Continents Championships in 2017 and a silver at the World Team Trophy competition in 2013. She is also a two-time national champion.
But injuries set her back in subsequent seasons, including mental health challenges. That was followed up by the pandemic stalling much of the competition in 2020 and 2021.
“We couldn’t skate for a few months. It was very interesting. We just kind of had to train at home,” she said. “You just have to work with you got, focus on what you can control and just stay the course.”
Her training had to shift, with work inside her home, followed by more isolated experience at rinks.
Keeping on track despite all the setbacks is “a lot easier said than done,” she said.
“Staying motivated is very hard. Especially through injuries and during a pandemic. But I just have to remember why I’m doing this, why I love this sport so much,” she said, adding that it is hard facing another injury due to a vehicle collision beyond her control. “Right now, I’m just trying to stay positive … A hard pill to swallow.”
Off the ice, Daleman has kept busy. She competed and won the Miss Ontario World pageantry competition in 2020, though ended up stepping back from further competition to focus on figure skating.
She has also garnered a strong social media following, with more than 109,000 followers on Instagram.
“I never planned to get a following. Honestly, I’m a small town girl,” she said. “But it’s very inspiring. So many people look up to me and support me … Just knowing my story, or what I’ve gone through can help someone else or can inspire someone else, is what truly means the world to me.”
Although she is sidelined for now, Daleman still has plenty of contests in the season ahead. She said she will focus more on her love of the sport and enjoying it rather than on points and results.
“Focus on me and what I can control, not the judging,” she said. “I can’t control that.”
For those local skaters wishing to follow in her footsteps, she said to dream big and never let others tell you your dreams are wrong.
“Believe in yourself. If you love something, stick with it,” she said. “The hard days are only going to make you better.”