It seemed that there was no way that Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Daleman was going to take off that Olympic team jacket she earned for winning the silver medal at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships.
In the days following the Canadian Olympic Committee presentation, Daleman stuck around the championships, supporting her brother, Zachary Daleman, who finished fifth in the novice men’s event. Everywhere Daleman went, she wore that red and black jacket.
It was the best birthday present she could imagine. Daleman won her way to the Olympics when she was 15, then she turned 16 the following Monday, January 13. Strangely enough, Daleman has the same birthdate as her idol, Joanne Rochette, who won a bronze medal at the most recent Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
“Words can’t describe how excited I’d be,” Daleman said before the team announcement. “The Olympics comes along once every four years and knowing that I’ll be the youngest there [on the Canadian team] will just make my day.”
The petite skater from Newmarket, Ontario, wasn’t initially impressed with the idea of skating. Her mother, Rhonda Raby, was a skating fan who enrolled Daleman in skating when she was four years old. “I was one of those kids that did not want to get on the ice at first,” she said. “I would cry. I would beg not to go on the ice. But then after weeks of crying, my mom just said: ‘Just go on the ice.’ And then they couldn’t get me off.”
When Daleman was eight years old, she saw Rochette on television and began to jump around the living room. “And that’s when I knew I wanted to be a competitive skater and be like her,” Daleman said.
Daleman swash-buckled her way to the Olympic berth, the dream having been born when she finished second at the Canadian championships last year in only her first year as a senior. In her mind, that meant she had to squish three years of senior skating into one to make that team. She turned on the burners, inserting two triple-triples into her repertoire, including the formidable triple Lutz – triple toe loop, a combo that many of the women at the top of the international scale do. “I knew I needed the stuff to get it done,” she said.
Her final score of 182.47 visibly shocked her; her previous best, set earlier in the season, was 174. “I was not expecting that score at all,” she said. “I was not even focused on it from the beginning. I was more focused on what I needed to do to get the job done.” She was a little nervous going out onto the ice, knowing what was at stake, but she said she calmed herself down by telling herself she knew how to do it and she had to trust her training. She fought for every point.
Her favourite part of skating is jumping, but she also put a lot of work into increasing her program components mark, turning to Lori Nichol to design both programs for the first time. Nichol had choreographed her long program last year. “My programs are a lot of fun to train,” she said. “Lori is so much fun. She pushes me really hard.”
One of her coaches, Andrei Berezintsev, said Daleman has improved everything this season. “I think that fact that she could potentially be one of the Olympics, she’s pushing her limits. “
Berezintsev has worked with Daleman for five years. When he first saw her, she had a single Axel and a cheated double Salchow. “But what I liked, she was always the show woman,” he said. “On the ice, you can see her all the time.”
It’s been an intense season. Asked what she does off the ice, away from skating, Daleman’s first thought is: “If I’m not skating, normally I go to physio.” Laughter breaks out, then she says: “I’m an athlete you know.” She does hang out with a group of about six friends, most of who were at the Canadian championships. “But mostly I stay at home and try to relax and stretch,” she said. “My life is pretty much skating. And I’m actually okay with it because I know it pays off in the end and it’s what I love doing.”
Daleman’s career is only beginning. Two-time Canadian champion Kaetlyn Osmond, who defeated a strong field of women in her first Grand Prix, Skate Canada, one and a half years ago, has pushed Daleman, too. “What Kaetlyn did last year was really big,” Daleman said. “I know that she’s a great competitor. She’s a great skater and nice friend and a wonderful girl and I love competing against her.”
Friendship aside, Daleman figures she doesn’t always need to play the bridesmaid. “One day, you want to beat her,” she said. “So you just keep pushing, pushing and we all try to get to the top.”
She’s learned many lessons in a short time: don’t focus on marks, but the job at hand; trust the training; don’t be focused to a fault; don’t get upset if something doesn’t work; don’t overdo an injury – know your limits.
And as driven as she is, Daleman already knows that perfection doesn’t exist. But she’s driven. And don’t forget, the Olympics will be Daleman’s first major senior international competition. Internationally this season, she’s been competing on the Junior Grand Prix circuit.
Want to read more about the figure skaters who will compete at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi? Pick up Beverley Smith’s new book SKATING TO SOCHI! The book profiles the top 40 athletes/teams with full-colour photos! Order online: Amazon.com, Lulu.com (ebook) or iTunes (ebook).