Jump by jump Gabby Daleman is shooting for the stars

A trip through Gabby Daleman’s twitter account leaves you breathless with inspiration.

There’s a thread that runs through them all, and it’s easy to decipher.

“The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do,” she says in one of them.

“Tell me I can’t, then watch me work twice as hard to prove you wrong. #WatchMe,” reads another.

And this: “There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.”

It has always been thus for the 16-year-old who trains in Richmond Hill, Ont. She will allow nothing to stand in her way.

A stress fracture in her right foot last season hobbled her efforts at the Olympics (she placed 17th). And just as she was ramping up for the Thornhill Summer Skate, Daleman contracted strep throat. Her throat numb, she powered through a short program to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – all frothed up in white gown and lace, and landing a triple toe loop – triple toe loop and a triple flip. She’ll do the triple Lutz – triple toe loop through the rest of the season.  She said she scaled back the trick because she wanted to focus on the component mark in Thornhill. She’s also working on a triple Salchow – triple toe loop.

The long routine, where her ability to breathe came more into play, was a rougher go. Skating to “Aranjuez” vocals, she scored 103.36.

Never mind that she popped a jump, rolled and turned out of some others. She was wearing some boots that were on their last legs. The way Daleman trains, she’s hard on them. It seems there isn’t a women’s boot on this planet that can match Daleman’s fierce intent to succeed.

Daleman admitted that she broke those boots she wore at Thornhill the Monday before the competition. She has to get a new pair, and she’ll get a second pair by sometime in September and they will be very different indeed. They will be custom made for her in Italy – and they will be constructed from a more robust male model. When she gets those skates, it will be the first time she’ll have two in hand at once. She’s taking no chances. She’ll have about a month to break them in before the Skate Canada Autumn Classic International in Barrie, Ontario in mid-October.

After all, she’s setting her cap boldly to win the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships this year, she said, and she’s working on unleashing a triple Axel.

This summer, Daleman has already gone through three pairs of skates. Shortly after her international exploits last spring, the heel broke off one of her boots. The ones she wore in Thornhill had been in action only about seven weeks.

“It’s never happened before,” she said. “It’s just because I’ve been working on my jumps and my speed and we’ve been working on the triple Axel, too, so it’s more jumping, higher jumps. It’s just more padding on the skates.”

She says she trains triple Axels for about an hour a day – for about 20 minutes a session. She’s landed some in the past, but now she’s been doing nine or 10 out of 10 attempts, using a harness. Currently she cheats the landing by about a quarter or a half rotation on the ice. “That’s really good, because we started it about two weeks ago,” she said at Thornhill.

The jump that is rare to women will be in her program this season, she said. Only five women in history have landed the jump in competition: Midori Ito, Tonya Harding, Yukari Nakano, Ludmila Nelidina and Mao Asada. Over the past decade, Asada has been the only one toying with the difficult jump.

Once again, Daleman has turned to Lori Nichol for vehicles that will pull as many component marks out of judges as possible. Daleman cherishes her free program to Aranjuez. The vocals don’t distract her; they carry her.

“The thing I love about it is the lyrics,” Daleman said. “I really feel I can do this program, where it just feels like a show program. I’m having fun with it.

“It’s a love story and I love it because it doesn’t get faster, it just gets more intense, so it’s really pushing my limits.”

Aranjuez is a small city in Spain, where Joaquin Rodrigo wrote the music for the world-famous song in 1939. Figure skating aficionados have heard the haunting and beautiful music many times, but not the exquisite lyrics. It starts like this: “Aranjuez, a place of dreams and love/where a rumour of crystal fountains in the garden/seems to whisper to the roses.” And it becomes more wistful from there.

As beautiful as the music is, Daleman will be doing plenty of work throughout this routine. Instead of putting three jumps in the second half, like last year, she’ll put five. (No wonder she had troubles breathing at Thornhill.) She figures she was at only 70 per cent of her readiness at Skate Detroit, and 85 per cent in Thornhill. That encourages her; she’s improving.

Canadians will not see Daleman at Skate Canada International in Kelowna, B.C. this season. After the Autumn Classic, she’ll prepare for the Cup of China and NHK.

She comes into this season having learned much from her dramatic Olympic season. (She’s still wearing that team jacket.) “Just set your goals and don’t expect too much of yourself,” she said. “We’re all human and just have fun with your skating. Just show the people what you do every day, and how much you love the sport.”

She skated at the world championships with two shin splints and the stress fracture, and took it easy, took time to enjoy the ride. It seemed to work. She finished 13th. “I just tried to relax and have more fun with it and not really worry about anything,” she said. It seemed like a good strategy.

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