Zach Daleman carving his own path to the podium

Zachary Daleman isn’t just Gabby Daleman’s younger brother. He’s Zach Daleman, Esquire, with a passion of his own for the skate blade.

His time will come.

Now 14, Daleman has his cap set for bigger things: getting all of his triples, winning junior Canadians, maybe even this coming season. As a novice, he was doing two triples (Salchow and toe loop) and he has a triple loop in his back pocket. This year, he’s trying on triple flip and Lutz for size. And he says he is starting to work on a triple Axel.

He finished fifth at the novice level last January, but that was more of a triumph than it looks. For one thing, he’s grown seven inches since last May and now towers over his sister, who is two years older. For now, he’s five feet, seven inches.

And last fall, he broke his ankle when he came out of a three-turn and slipped during training.  “My leg went the wrong way,” he said. It was his left ankle, his take-off ankle. He couldn’t walk coming off the ice and off he went to hospital. The fracture was hairline, but still, it set him back badly.

“He was beside himself with grief,” said his mother, Rhonda Raby. “He had worked hard.”

“I was in a walking cast for a month,” Daleman said. In all, he missed four or five weeks of training during the important fall months. He started working again a few weeks before sectionals. And it wasn’t easy. “It was hard because every time I tried a jump, my leg would not want to do it,” he said. “So I was sometimes afraid of jumping.”

The first week, he just stroked around the ice, and did skating skills. In a week or 10 days, all the doubles came back and then the triples.

By Skate Canada Challenge, he still lacked mileage, and finished 18th. He knew he wasn’t that. He was better than 18th. He wanted so badly to get to the national championships. That finish was just good enough to get there.

With a few more miles of training under his belt, Daleman was third after the short program at the Canadian championships novice division (triple Salchow, double toe loop, triple toe loop, double Axel, level four combination spin and a measure of pizzazz). Sixth in the long with a near-clean skate, he finished fifth overall.

“It was a miracle,” he said. “I didn’t have a good year.” He’d broken that ankle just as he was starting to land his triple Salchow and toe loop consistently.

Young Daleman wasn’t always keen about this pursuit in the early days. His parents were both advocates of exercise. Michael Daleman, a teacher at Pickering College in Newmarket, Ont., was a former track athlete, who specialized in triple jump. He is now a level three track coach and also works as the conditioning and strength coach for both of his children. Mother Rhonda is a figure skating fan. “It’s part of being Canadian to me,” she said.

Michael Daleman would take Zach skating sometimes. “He would lie on the ice,” Raby said. “He didn’t want to skate…He was the laziest kid known to man.”

But little by little, Zach skated more and more. He’d skate two days a week, then three and four. He improved. He tried hockey for a while, but one day told his parents he didn’t want to do it anymore. He just wanted to skate.

Now you can’t get the kid off the ice. “Now if you tell him he can’t skate, he will go crazy,” his mother said. “My son loves skating so much. He loves to perform, even more than his sister.”

Zach showed such promise that Skate Canada’s Ontario Section sent him off to a developmental international competition, the Mladost Trophy in Zagreb, Croatia in April of 2013, because of his excellent showing at the Challenge event in Regina in December, 2012. He was a pre-novice champion of Canada.

In Croatia, Zach finished third in the short program, and then went for it in the free, unleashing a clean free to win the gold medal overall. There, he landed his first triple Salchow in competition.

Last February, the entire family packed up and went off to Sochi to watch Gabby compete as the youngest member of the Canadian Olympic team. They got a hotel only 15 to 20 minutes from the arena. His grandparents went too. Ann and Theo Daleman were from the Muskokas, where Michael was born.

In Parry Sound, Daleman and Raby have owned a 106-seat family restaurant for 20 years, where Gabby has worked in the past.

In Sochi, the Daleman family attended speed skating, hockey and figure skating, although Zach said he saw only his sister’s events. “It was good seeing all the good athletes there and stuff.” He says the experience has inspired him to get to the Olympics as well.

Mother Rhonda said the experience was also difficult for him. “When is it going to be about me?” Still, they all support each other. They are best friends.

Zach has big footsteps to follow. But he’s intent on leaving his own mark.

Beverley Smith

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