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Chicago suburb resident chases Olympic gold again after more than 16 years in retirement

CHICAGO (CBS) — At 16, Deanna Stellato-Dudek was the best junior skater in the world, but despite a devastating injury that doctors warned would recur, she never completely forgot her Olympic dream.

“I had a lot of good results in the junior division. The following year I would move up to the senior division,” Stellato-Dudek said.

“It was about a year before the Olympic Trials in 2002, so I was going to miss those Olympic Trials if I couldn’t train the way I wanted to, so I thought, I guess I should just forget about it and move on, so that is what I did.”

How devastating was that? Extreme.

“I happened to be at a work retreat. We were doing a fun exercise. Everyone had a note card on the table. When it was your turn, you lifted the note card and read what it said. My note card said: What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? And I immediately blurted out, without thinking, “Oh, I would win an Olympic gold medal.” And then I remember sitting back in my chair and thinking, I can’t believe I said that. I haven’t even skated in 16 or 17 years. I just thought if I said that without thinking, it would be something. deep down, it has to be something I long for and really want,” she said.

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She asked her mother for her 16-year-old boots and skates and started skating again. Did it feel like coming home?

‘Of course. I remember the first time I stepped on the ice and skated across it really fast, and you could feel the wind in your face, and that feeling is just not there.”

It wasn’t just the feeling that came back, but also the muscle memory. Within three months, Stellato-Dudek was once again landing every triple jump. And as Stellato-Dudek took to the ice again, she told herself this time, she wouldn’t say no to anything that was offered to her. Includes a suggestion from the US figure skating director to consider pairings.

“I joke that I fell in love the first time I lifted. I love being lifted. I love being thrown. I felt like it was always something I had to do, and I was asked when I was younger, but I always said no, so it’s kind of funny how it’s come full circle and that’s what I’m doing now,” she said.

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Things came full circle when Stellato-Dudek took the stage in March at the age of 40. Once again the best in the world and making history as the oldest woman ever to win a World Figure Skating Championship in any discipline.

“It’s nothing I ever wanted to do. I just wanted to come back and skate for myself. I just wanted to be able to live to be 80 years old and not regret not trying that again when I said I during that work retreat. I didn’t want to have that regret, but I never really thought about breaking an age barrier, records or anything like that to be able to do that,” Stellato-Dudek said I feel like I’m someone who wants to show the millennials of my generation that if you have a dream or something else in your life that you want to pursue, whether it’s a sport, a degree, another job or a part-time job, that You absolutely can do it.”

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Stellato-Dudek is far from finished. Her sights are still set on Olympic gold. And as the reigning world champion, her lifelong dream has never been more within reach.

“I imagine myself standing on top of the podium and having the peripheral view of the other two spots below me, right and left. And receiving my medal as you bend down. It’s important to visualize those things. And I will do that . also visualize receiving my passport,” she said.

She currently represents Canada with her Canadian partner Maxime. Stellato-Dudek is a permanent resident but must have full citizenship to represent Canada at the Milan Olympics. She said there is a precedent that she can get her passport on time, but she says she won’t be stress-free until she does.

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