Thursday, March 31, 2011

Style On Ice Exclusive Interview: Elvis Stojko

On April 16, 2011 in Moncton, N.B.  Elvis Stojko will be inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame.  The Three-time World Champion, Two-time Olympic Silver Medalist and Seven-Time Canadian Champion recently took a few minutes to discuss this honor (among other things) with Style On Ice.

ES: I’m pretty excited about it!  I didn’t expect it so it totally caught me off guard.  I was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame a few years back and that was exciting as well.  The Olympic Hall of Fame is great because it sort of caps off my career in regards to everything I’ve done.  Being recognized by the Olympic Association for Canada is amazing.  There are some pretty great athletes, coaches and builders that have been recognized.  It’s so amazing to be among them.  It has been almost 9 years since I’ve retired so being inducted now is nice.  It has made me kind of go back and really think about my career. It’s funny because I had already been rehashing some of the great memories and all of a sudden I get a call that the President of the Olympic Association wants to talk to me personally.  The timing is kind of ironic and pretty cool.

SOI: What are some of the memories that you were already thinking of?

ES: There are a lot of different moments that stand out, it was never just one big thing.  Not letting the system itself change who I was or change the direction that I wanted to go in was an important thing.  There are a lot of people that you can follow that believe they can (and that they really want) to help you.  I stuck to my guns all the way through.  I stayed on the path that I wanted to be on stylistically and I skated the way that I wanted to skate.

When it comes to particular achievements there’s quite a few that really stick in my mind.  One is when I made the world team for the first time in 1990.  In 1988 I was junior champion and then in 1989,  I didn’t even make it to Canadian Nationals.  I had grown, my body had changed and I was still really young.  I worked so hard that year (1990), come hell or high water I was going to make it to Nationals.  I jumped over that goal and kind of exceeded it, by making the world team.  That was a breakthrough year for me and I started pushing Kurt Browning right away.  It let people know that I was a contender. Kurt and I had some great battles in the early 90’s.

{Tom Hanson}

In 1994, I came out with my Bruce Lee program and skated a little bit different then everyone else thought skating should be.  A lot of people said that if I’d skated to something different I’d have won the Olympics (rather than come in second).  It was very close anyway, a 5/4 split and to me it’s about being yourself out there.  Just the way I competed and how I did it made me happy. Winning Nationals in 94, then a silver at Olympics and winning worlds after that- it was a huge, huge year.

Everyone says that I gave a really gutsy performance in 1998 at the Olympics, but for me it was such a rough time, with the injury to my groin.  I was trying to balance my injury, my brain and the media.  I needed to keep my focus so that I could just try to skate my best.  I didn’t know if I was going to compete another four years so I didn’t want to just give up.  I pushed myself through it and may have caused some damage, not just on a physical level, but on an emotional and spiritual level as well.  I fought through that injury but never quite got my form back after that, not like I wanted.  I was still competitive but not quite as crisp as I wanted to be.  I was disappointed in 98’ because my body failed me but that performance did inspire a lot of people.


 It was a character building experience for me that’s for sure.  There was a moment in the program where I was going into my second triple Axel and I was skating down the boards in front of the judges and my body wanted to stop.  I wanted to quit. Then I had this thought if I did stop, in two hours I’d be wondering why I didn’t just push myself through it and at least try.  I had to know if I could do it or not so I continued and truly muscle memory kicked in and got me through the rest of the program.  About 3 months later, as I was healing, I realized I had been so busy that I never gave myself time to reflect.  I had been in high gear with the injury, the media, figuring out if I even could compete at worlds-  I needed to just put it in park and shut it all off.  I realized I needed to decompress from that Olympic experience and so I shut the car off.  I had pushed  to a point where something broke within myself and it took a few years to fully put it back together again.

SOI: Now that you’ve stepped away from eligible skating and see it with fresh eyes, who do you enjoy watching?

ES:  Takahashi Daisuke, for me his edges are the best and I could watch him for hours.  He has an incredible, natural skating ability that isn’t forced or overworked.  Great jumps, great spins and he kind of goes to the beat of his own drum. He has a cool attitude.  He knows he’s good, but he’s respectful and not cocky about it.  He’s a breathe of fresh air in a sport that has some very flamboyant, ‘Look at me!’ types of skating on display.  I see guys skating now and I think, ‘ Don’t worry about what we’re thinking,  just let us take it in.’.  I like all three Japanese guys but he is my favorite. 

There comes a point where as a skater you have to make a choice.  That choice is to go with how I feel or to at take the package they’re giving me.  Do I take the music, take the costume, take the look because I know this is the packaged deal that will sell? 


The package may last for a few years and then you realize it’s a fad and fads go away.  Then there’s the ones with longevity that went their own way.  They didn’t follow the status quo and just threw away their inhibitions.  They are who they are, because they are unique and different.  They give themselves honestly to the sport, to the fans and that is what this sport is all about. Champions come and go.  Some train for one reason only. They train to win, they DO win and then they leave.  Then there’s people that didn’t win but they really stick in your mind and they make a difference.  Those are the people I appreciate.

SOI: Are you hitting the ice again soon?

ES: There’s a carnival show in the northern part of Quebec this weekend.  A small club invited me to skate so I’m doing two shows,  April 2nd-3rd in St Romuald.  I haven’t been to Quebec in awhile so I think it’ll be really nice to skate there.  There are possibly some shows coming to Western Canada at the end of the summer.  If the shows happen, I’ll be there.  I can’t say much more than that about those for now.  I may be teaching a seminar in June but that’s not completely solid yet either.  I’m doing things here and there but I’m trying to pace myself.  I do have something in the works that is very, very personal.  I’ll be able to share with people soon but I can’t let that out of the bag just yet.  I’ll have to keep everyone in mystery about that for a few more months.

Over the years I’ve had a lot of really great fans who have supported me and I want to thank them for being so strong.  They’ve defended my points and are really fantastic.  You can’t be liked by everyone and there will always be people that choose to go in the other direction.  I have to say, those that have supported me have just been amazing.


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