OH, CANADA! Elvis Stojko back on native soil, working with young Skate Canada athletes

Elvis Stojko is home again.

After more than a decade living in Mexico, Stojko has returned home to Canada, the country he won a trio of world titles for two decades ago.

It wasn’t planned, the exodus south of the border. Growing up at the mercy of Canada’s relentless winters and training daily inside frigid, damp arenas, Stojko admits he had grown weary of the cold, but there wasn’t a grand plan to escape to a warmer climate. But during a trip to Mexico to visit a friend back in 2001, Stojko decided to buy an apartment on the spot.

As fate would have it, a few years later, he met Gladys Orozco, a former Mexican national figure skating champion. They were wed five years ago.

The couple lived in splendid hillside villa in the village of Ajijic, about an hour outside of Guadalajara. Stojko, always a very private person, welcomed the seclusion and the warm temperatures.

Eventually, though, Canada called Stojko home.

“To be back on a full-time basis feels great,” says Stojko, who moved back to Canada a year ago. “I loved living in Mexico, it was a great experience. But everything was just starting to pull my wife and I back here.

“This is home.”

Elvis Stojko teaches kung fu.

Photo – Gladys Orozco

Not only has the 43-year-old returned to his native country, but there is a second homecoming of sorts, as Stojko has established a working relationship with Skate Canada.

Recently, Stojko took 14 skaters and their coaches under his proverbial wing at the Skate Canada National Performance Centre in Toronto. Eighteen years after his last world title, Stojko still commands a presence when he walks into a room.

Even today, when the three-time world champion, seven-time Canadian champion and two-time Olympic silver medallist speaks, people take notice.

“It feels awesome to reconnect with Skate Canada, work with the kids and be accessible,” Stojko adds. “I have so much information and experience but unless I transfer it, it just dies with me. To be able to pass it on, that’s evolution. That’s how we all learn. In a selfish way, it feels good. As I teach, I also learn.”

“Elvis was one of Canada’s most-focused athletes throughout his outstanding career, and his ability to stay in the moment to maximize performance is legendary,” stated Skate Canada Chief Executive Officer Dan Thompson.

“We are so honoured that Elvis has decided to give back in such a tangible way and we look forward to building our relationship through these camps for a long time.”

At the National Performance Centre, Stojko spent part of the day stressing the importance of mental preparation and being aware of the body at all times. He also spent over an hour on the ice with the skaters and coaches, working with the young athletes on their jumps and landings.

Stojko, a noted martial arts expert, also offered a kung fu training session, including various breathing techniques and exercises designed to activate different muscle groups.

“Most people look at the physical aspect of kung fu, but it is the mental aspect (that is most important),” he says. “It is being able to utilize it as a focusing aid. It is for the confidence and killer instinct to help push them past a certain limit where they don’t think they can get.”

Monica Lockie, Skate Canada’s National Performance Centre Director, says the lessons the young athletes are learning through Stojko are invaluable.

“It’s funny, a lot of these kids were born after Elvis’ career was over,” says Lockie. “A lot of them can’t fully appreciate just how strong he was, and how many obstacles he had to overcome. I think a camp like this is essential for our skaters, our future champions, to let them know it is OK to go through your own challenges.

“In the end, it’s going to be how tough you are mentally that will determine how far you go physically.”

“Elvis had a great career, but he really is an icon for mental toughness and perseverance. He is trying to empower the skater to build his or her own confidence and not just look to other people. Elvis succeeded because of his own drive.

“In the end, it’s going to be how tough you are mentally that will determine how far you go physically.”

Stojko is a busy man these days. When he is not working with Skate Canada, Stojko continues to chase his own dream of kart racing, as a competitive racer at the national and international level. With the karting national championships set to go later this summer, Stojko is focused on making the world team.

Last year, Stojko also wrapped up his Broadway debut, starring as manipulative, smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn in Chicago: The Musical.

“It’s a lot of fun,” says Stojko of his karting passion. “I take it very seriously and really want to make the world team. I think it is a very realistic goal for me.

“I really like doing this seminar work and working with a lot of kids. I like the consulting thing, and want to do it on my own schedule.”

Stokjo also looks forward to strengthening his partnership with Skate Canada.

“That’s where we’re headed,” he says “If they like the work, and the kids like it, we’ll continue.

“It’s what I love to do.”

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