Chatting With All-Star Canadian Figure Skater Elladj Baldé

May 14, 2024

We triple-axeled at the chance to chat with Canadian figure skater extraordinaire Elladj Baldé, who has competed in both singles and pairs skating but is best known for his achievements in men’s singles skating. Throughout his career, he has represented Canada in various international competitions, including the World Championships and the Four Continents Championships. —Noa Nichol

Hi Elladj! Please tell us a bit about yourself/your skating journey/career to start.

My name is Elladj Baldé. I’m a professional figure skater. I’ve started skating at the age of 6 and competed until the age of 27. I’ve skated for Team Canada for about a decade internationally and then started doing shows around the world. When I retired from competitive skating in 2018, I toured in Japan, Korea, Europe, North America, really all over the world, and I really enjoyed doing that because my passion really lies in connecting with an audience and expressing myself artistically. When the pandemic happened, I lost all opportunities to perform for an audience because live shows and live entertainment were cancelled, and that’s when my wife Michelle had the idea to start making videos on social media. I was very uncomfortable with the idea at the beginning because it was a very foreign concept to me, and there’s no one really making videos on social media expressing themselves artistically in this way. The idea felt very uncomfortable, and I resisted quite a lot, but eventually, I allowed myself to dive in, and we started creating some really beautiful pieces that felt very good to me, and we started sharing that on social media, and quite quickly, couple of videos went viral and changed both of our lives. It changed my life in so many ways. Skating in the mountains on wild ice is something that changed my relationship with skating on a pretty deep level. For the longest time growing up, I was very focused on achieving results and winning competitions, and that was the most important thing to me. When artistry and self-expression became more important, and I got the ability to express myself on ice that was formed by mother nature in the mountains, it just brought a sense of connectedness that I hadn’t felt before. I felt connected to nature, to myself, to the music that I was skating to. It was quite powerful, and I felt a sense of presence that I hadn’t felt ever in my life for me, being able to do what I do in nature, I just know that I will do it for the rest of my life.

The 2024 World Figure Skating Championship was hosted in Montreal in March; how did it feel to be on home ice?

Although I didn’t compete in the World Championship in Montreal this year, I got to perform in the opening and closing ceremony of the Gala. Being able to perform at the World Championship at home in Montreal was an absolute blessing. It was a magical experience and to think that it had been 10 years since the last time I was at Worlds competing back in 2014-2015, I didn’t think I would ever gave the opportunity to skate at a World Championship again. Having that opportunity was absolutely incredible and having my family come and watch and support me was amazing and for me to be able to continue to share my art and my passion for skating in front of this crowd at Bell Center as well, which is an arena that I’ve been to many times to watch the Montreal Canadiens was just epic.

What is your favourite event to compete in? What have some highlights/memorable performance of your career been?

Some of my favourite events that I’ve ever competed at were obviously the World Championships, which is the biggest competition in the sport outside of the Olympics, and it was incredible. One of my highlights obviously was in 2015. I won the Nebelhorn Trophy, which is an international competition. I skated just perfectly and felt so good on the ice. I landed my quad jump and technically and artistically, it was one of my best performances in my entire career. I’d say my most memorable performance was my last national Championship in 2018. I skated, coming back from an injury after three months of being off the ice. I had one month to prepare for this competition, and I was able to go there and have the skate of life and be greeted and gifted a beautiful reaction from the audience when, with 30 seconds left to my performance, the crowd was on their feet, clapping and giving a standing ovation. It was definitely the most beautiful moment in my entire career and this day will stay in my heart forever and will be my favourite moment in my competitive career.

What is your training regimen like? What does prep for competition look like?

So the training regimen for a competitive figure skater is quite intense. We would skate on the ice for about 2 to 3 hours from Monday to Friday, and then off the ice we would also have about an hour and a half to two hours in the gym, around 3 to 5 times a week, depending on what time of the season we were. The closer you are to a competition, the less the load is because you’re trying to taper and then keep your body fresh but building up to the competition is where the hardest training happens, normally in the summer, we can easily skate 3 to 4 hours and be in the give two hours five days a week because you’re getting yourself in shape and then as you get closer to the competition, it starts slowing down in terms of intensity. The work becomes more focussed on specific details, really about precision instad of pushing your body. The week before the competition, you’re actually working on specific details to take your program to the next level.

What’s your perspective on the evolving landscape of figure skating and its impact on athletes?

My perspective on the evolving landscape of the sport is that I think in the past couple of decades, our sport has been moving in the direction where artistry has taken a backseat, and the sport has become very technical, which is quite impressive because, in my lifetime, I never thought I would see people land the quads that are being landed right now, especially the quad acle from Ilia Malinin. The technical level is quite incredible, what human bodies are able to do. I’m very fascinated by that, but unfortunately, because the sport has been rewarding technical elements, the artistic side of the sport has slowly, and for a lack of better words, been dwindling away because the emphasis is so much on jumping techniques. I will say that in the last maybe 2 to 3 years, I’ve started seeing more skaters come out with individual artistic languages that are unique to them, and that’s something, you know, in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, every skater had their own style, their own way of moving and it differentiated them from other skaters, and you could connect with the skaters on a deeper level than just technically so that’s something that really made the sport quite popular and so what I’m seeing right now is a few skaters starting to explore that, and I think it’s really important. For me, it’s an important mission of mine to show people how important artistry is. It’s the reason why I make those videos on social media, one of the reasons. I want to show how unique you can be in your way of skating and how celebrated you can be. I think the sport is moving more in that direction, and it’s exciting to see.

What’s next for you, personally and professionally?

What is next for me, obviously, I’m going to continue to share my passion for skating on social media, but the most exciting thing right now is the Art of Performance Training Camp that my wife and I are putting together. We have the events coming to Calgary on June 24th and 27th, and essentially, it’s a training camp for figure skaters that has an emphasis on artistry. Yes, we touch on all the technical elements of the sport, which are really important, but we dive deeper into the nature of self-expression and how to develop a unique voice for yourself as an artist and tap into the human side that we all have and the unique story that we have and how to share that with an audience around the world. We also touch on every aspect that would be required to be a high-level athlete, or someone who just enjoys skating gets the opportunity to express themselves and find fulfilment on a deeper level than just results because, in reality, results come from people who are able to perform so if we just focus on performance and focus on self-expression, everything else will come.

Also, I have the incredible opportunity to be an ambassador for ICY HOT and Kidsports Canada. The importance of sports in life is extremely impactful, and I speak from experience; sports has shaped me into the human being I am today, and a lack of access to spots is something that is a problem in our society, so this beautiful donation from ICY HOT to Kidsports Canada of 500,000 over the next three years will change a lot of kids lives. It will allow kids to have access to sports where otherwise they wouldn’t be able to have access to, and the fact that there’s one of three kids that doesn’t have access to sports is something that needs to be resolved in our country and I’m proud to be a voice in this beautiful initiative, and I hope to inspire the next generation of black and indigenous skaters of colour to pick up a pair of skates and maybe try it out and fall in love with it and find a way to express themselves in ways that they might not think they would be able to.


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