Canadian figure skater Gabrielle Dalemanmay be only 20 years old, but she has been through more ups and downs than many older athletes.
After undergoing emergency surgery last May for the removal of a cyst, the world bronze medallist has worked her way back into medal contention at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. “I had a brutal summer with surgery and a lot of problems,” said Daleman speaking at Gangneung Ice Arena.
“This Olympics means more to me than I ever thought it could,” she added. “I was off for four months and we were told that after the abdominal surgery I had you're supposed to be off for about eight months."I tried to get back after three months, but that didn't work in my favour. I had no idea what was going to happen this season."
The season started slowly for Daleman, but once she returned to full training towards the end of the year her results started to improve dramatically. "I wasn't looking much into the Grand Prix, I wasn't looking to the podium, I wasn't looking to do anything. I was just seeing where I was in my training. From the beginning, we said our goals are the Canadians, the Winter Olympics and the Worlds. We were already focusing on the second half of the season and that's exactly what we did."
At the Canadian national championships in January, she came out strong to beat favourite and world silver medallist Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) to take the title.
Daleman has also recently spoken out about eating disorder problems and of being bullied in school because of a learning disability similar to dyslexia.And she has been heartened by all of the support that she received from her fellow athletes since choosing to open up.
“I got a lot of messages from other skaters,” she revealed. “Ashley Cain (USA) messaged me, Gracie [Gold] (USA) messaged me, Evgenia [Medvedeva] (OAR) messaged me. A lot of skaters came up to say thank you for sharing the story because not a lot of people are open with it.
“Not only athletes, a lot of women do struggle with most of the stuff that I've been struggling with and I still do on a day-to-day basis. It's hard talking about it and the media is everywhere but it's my story and I shouldn't be ashamed to tell people what I've been through and what I'm going through, because it's life and it's brought me to where and who I am today. I'm not ashamed of it. I'm proud of the struggles I've been through and I'm going through and I'm very happy to be here and what I've been able to do.”
Having made her Olympic debut at 16 in Sochi four years ago, where she finished 17th, the Canadian harbours hopes of making it onto the podium this time around, but she also recognises that just being at the Games is a victory in itself.
“These Olympics mean more than anything, because I went from not knowing if I'll be able to skate this year to doing what I've been doing, and I couldn't be prouder, having just turned 20, to be at my second Olympics.”