June 2nd, 2018 was a day to remember for Brant County and the Paris Skating Club. Skaters came from near and far for their opportunity to learn from two-time Olympic silver medallist, five-time world champion, and seven-time Canadian champion, Elvis Stojko. Elvis and his talented and bubbly wife, Mexican figure skater, Gladys Orozco, taught a 6 hour seminar to figure skaters of all ages at the Brant Sports Complex. Skaters participated in classes not only focused on skating, but also in dance and martial arts. After the seminar was completed, Stojko and Orozco sat down with me for an interview about their time in Brant, the struggles he faced as a skater, and the choices he had to make being from a small town like Paris and Brant County.
Elvis and Gladys came into town late on Friday night, and were welcomed into Paris by the fantastic staff at The Arlington Hotel downtown, where they stayed in the Stanley Kubrick themed room.
“The hotel was amazing”, said Gladys who later mentioned it creeped her out a little bit at first.
“Yeah,” continued Elvis, “The axe in the door definitely took some getting used to”. However, in no time, they were having tons of fun and even taking pictures of each other enjoying every little detail.
Before the seminar on Saturday morning, Gladys and Elvis took a drive through downtown Paris, which led them over to Blue Dog for their morning coffee. They just loved the feel of Wincey Mills, Gladys especially,
“I love vintage things,” she told me before continuing, “it was exactly the kind of place I love exploring”.
Unfortunately for the pair, they were there a little early so most shops were not yet opened up for the day, but that didn’t stop them from walking around.
As people who have been all over the world, I asked Elvis and Gladys what makes one place stand out from others. “Its really the uniqueness of the town,” Stojko explained, “Different places like Blue Dog have that little charm to them. Towns that are more than just chain restaurants… We love finding the little ‘mom and pop’ shops that are hidden or the ones that may have been there for 50 years”.
Gladys went on to tell me that she loves to do lots of research on the destinations before they travel, Elvis agreed and mentioned, “she loves finding little nooks and crannies everywhere we go, anytime we’re at the airport she’s grabbing everything that has things to do in them”.
Stojko revealed that he prefers doing seminars like this over coaching at one club, especially when he gets to come to smaller communities like Paris. He really enjoys having the ability to spread his knowledge with skaters and coaches from all over. Not only this, but Elvis loves sharing his home country with Gladys who has only lived in Canada for a few years.
They also tend to stay in the places they visit a little longer than they may have planned. For example, the couple did a seminar like this one in British Columbia and they stayed an extra few days to rent a car and explore more of B.C.. Unfortunately, they could not do this on their visit to Paris, as they had to leave for Nagano, Japan for the Olympic’s 20th Anniversary show.
The conversation then transitioned to his career when asked what advice he would give for achieving big dreams- such as reaching the Olympics- specifically to kids from small towns like the ones in Brant County.
“I came from a small town, I was born in Newmarket butlived in a little town called Queensville, its still small, its just south of Keswick. I started skating in Newmarket and there were two boys in the whole club.” Stojko explained that once he became the best in his club, he wasn’t getting much better. Thats when he started training at a much bigger club in Toronto with some of the best skaters in Canada. “In order to be good at something, you’ve gotta surround yourself with people that are better than you, thats how you get good. Sometimes you have to leave your roots, but don’t forget where you come from. You’ll notice that a lot of big time stars, whether they’re hockey players, figure skaters, a lot of them come from small towns.” As hard as leaving your home to train can be, “amazing things become ordinary and achievable”.
Gladys agreed before joking, “At least you got to stay in your country, I had to leave my (country)! I did not have those opportunities in Mexico. Every summer I was lucky enough to go to summer camps in Norway and Russia and (many other places).”
Stojko explained that it is all about what and who you surround yourself with, not only do you need a competitive environment that pushes you to be better, you also need a positive environment.
One the top pieces advice Elvis gave me for kids and adults alike, in skating and in life, was to, “just be yourself”. He even pointed out how stereotypical it was to say that, but it is something he really believes in.
Stojko is very well known for his different skating style, many say that he is a risk taker and he has broken many barriers throughout his career. He was often given a hard time from the skating community for having a more “macho” and “manly” skating style. We spoke about how while he was competing, men were given a hard time no matter how they skated, mostly for being gay or skating too feminine, he explained how it was confusing to him that when he came in, he was “attacked for being macho”, even by male skaters that used to be attacked for being too feminine.
He definitely had to work through it all. He didn’t fit in at first, and he often worried about what everybody else thought of him. He mentioned that he used to watch Mikail Baryshnikov, arguably the greatest male ballet dancer of all time- who had so much strength when he danced. He was not like any other ballerino, he performed with so much power and masculinity while dancing, which really helped Stojko realize that he could be artistic but still have that masculinity.
Elvis elaborated, “Once I let go and realized that it was none of my business what people thought of me… when I stopped defending who I was, I didn’t have to defend anymore, because I was me- just being”. He then continued stating, “Once I accepted that I was who I was, and I was in a sport that didn’t have a lot of (what I do) in it, I fit in. When you stop trying to fit in, you end up fitting in and falling into place.”
At the end of the day, Stojko delivered a message about being “authentic you”, with both myself, the skaters, and the coaches, because when you are, “you are different from everybody else,” and the skating community, and the whole world needs more individuals, proud of who they are.
Elvis and Gladys loved their time spent working with the skaters and just being in Paris. When asked if they would return, they both agreed that not only would they like to work with the skaters again, but they would also like to see more of Paris and Brant County. The pair mentioned that next time they hope to spend more time exploring downtown Paris and checking out the old architecture, specifically the cobblestone homes. They also look forward to returning to spend some time on the beautiful Grand River!
And for the fans of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, I asked Elvis- who has spent the last few months touring with the pair on the Stars On Ice Tour- what they were really like. “I’m surprised the question wasn’t about if they’re together or not,” Stojko laughed before continuing, “They’re really great. Just two small town kids that did really well and now they are just soaking it in. Scott talks a lot, but very serious about his work… he’s a motivator, always willing to help… fun to be around. Tessa is a sweetheart, she is very gracious… she has no ego at all, and she is very grounded. They have such respect for each other… and they are just really good people”.
Despite all of Canada longing for them to be together, Stojko told me that, they in fact are not, though he spoke of what Moir replies when asked, “(he) often jokes and says things like ‘oh I wish I could marry her, if only she’d give me the time of day'” .
Stojko will be joining Moir and Virtue on their “Thank You Canada” Tour this fall, which will be making stops in Kitchener (October 27th) and London (November 3rd), along with other Canadian skaters, Patrick Chan, Kaetlyn Osmond, and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford. Visit http://www.thethankyoucanadatour. ca for more information and tickets.
The Paris Figure Skating Club will be open for registration in mid-June and can be reached at http://www.parisfigureskating.org/.