GABRIELLE DALEMAN IS A GOAL GETTER
Goal setting is very important because it gives you things to strive for and try to succeed.
Gabrielle Daleman wears the weight of the Olympic gold and World bronze medals hanging from their ribbons around her neck like a pro. She should. The 21-year-old Newmarket, Ontarian has been preparing for grandeur since she first laced up a pair of figure skates in 2002.
“My parents put me in CanSkate when I was four; they thought every Canadian child should know how to skate,” affirms Daleman. They were right, because four years later while watching Joannie Rochette compete for Canada during the 2006 Olympics, Daleman turned to her parents and said, “that is what I want to do when I grow up.” So she did. She has. And despite a debilitating fall, which could have ended her career, Daleman continues to make strides forward—all with the support of her family, friends and the Granite Club where she trains with her coach Lee Barkell and choreographer Lori Nichol.
How did your fall impact you?
“During the warm-up for the World Team Trophy competition I was in the process of warming up my double axel to triple toe combination. I was skating forward and then turned backwards before my take-off of the axel jump. While I had my back turned, another skater had drifted out from the boards and into my path, so when I turned around to jump, she was there. I tried to avoid her, but our blades still touched and I went flying to the ice. It was a hard fall, causing me to have a concussion, a perforated eardrum, two broken ribs and a badly bruised knee.
Not realizing how badly I was hurt, I still attempted my Free Skate at the competition. Later that month I tried to do some shows, but I was unable to perform. I took the rest of April and May off to recover from my injuries and hoped it would be enough time, but my recovery was slow. I was going to see a concussion doctor in Toronto. I had to take migraine medicine to get the headaches from the concussion to stop. I had to see an ophthalmologist for my vision and now, I wear corrective glasses for my eyes. I met with Skate Canada, my coach and my parents at the beginning of July and together we decided that I would temporarily stop skating since I still had concussion symptoms. Skate Canada created a recovery plan for me, complete with seeing Meghan Buttle, a physiotherapist who orchestrated everything and was the central person who oversaw my recovery.
I was off the ice until the end of August. When I was allowed back on the ice, I had to take it slow with just edges and stroking. Even at National Camp, I was not allowed to do much. I withdrew from all my summer competitions and the Autumn Classic. Finally, I was cleared to do full training by the end of September.
I competed in Finland with only two weeks of full training, so I knew that I was not going to perform well there and that it was part of the recovery process. I then competed at Skate Canada International, two weeks later and had a good short program, but I didn’t have the mileage for my Free Skate. During the exhibition, I started to be bothered by the lights and the team doctor noticed this. So Skate Canada pulled me from the Cup of China event, as they didn’t think I would be able to handle the 26-hour trip to Chongqing. I have been good the last few weeks with no symptoms and I’m preparing for Nationals.”
What steps do you take to prevent injury now?
“I make sure I always warm-up and cool down properly, not only for competitions, but for training sessions as well. I also make sure I follow the diet laid out by my nutritionist so that my body gets the proper fuel it needs for my workouts and for recovery. I no longer train when I am in pain and I let my coaches know if something is wrong, where as before I wouldn’t say anything.”
I no longer train when I am in pain and I let my coaches know if something is wrong.
How have you coped psychologically?
“I won’t lie. I have been dealing anxiety for almost two years and depression for almost a year and a half. The depression came last September when I fell on the ice and hit my head. My coach didn’t see it and I didn’t tell him. It was then that I experienced my first concussion, but I still competed at Salt Lake four days later. Two weeks after that I went into a state of depression, as I could not cope with the symptoms. I didn’t know that it was the concussion causing me to have constant headaches, nausea and just not feeling like myself.
After the accident, in April, I had the same symptoms, but even though we knew that it was concussion causing them, it was not any better. Having to take time off from the ice is not easy for me. I had to cancel shows and guest appearances. I had to see a concussion doctor, an ophthalmologist, ears, nose and throat specialist, my psychiatrist, my sports psychologist every two weeks—all to monitor my recovery. Not being able to train properly for almost six months is not an easy thing for anybody, especially a high performance athlete. But I also had my family there for me. My mom and dad were great, making sure that I got to all my appointments and was getting the proper nutrition and medicine.”
Are nutrition and psychological training part of your current plan?
“I include proper nutrition regiments and psychological training in my goal-setting plan because figure skating is a tough and demanding sport, both physically and psychologically. I spend up to four hours on the ice in a day and then have another one and a half to two hours of off-ice training. So nutrition is very important in not only keeping my bodies fuelled to train, but also in recovering from our workouts as well.
Psychological training is important because figure skating is unique from other sports, such as basketball or hockey where you respond to where the ball or puck is and who has it. In figure skating I know that nine seconds into my program I have a jump combination and in another seven seconds after that I another jump and so on. If you miss your first jump, you have to be able to mentally overcome that and regroup for the next 10 elements. Alternatively, if you nail that first jump you need to be able to control that emotion as well. All this is through mental training. I do a lot imagery training and talking through programs [with my coach].”
How do you manage your mental health training during the In-season?
“I meet regularly with Judy Goss, a sports psychologist and Dr. Carla Edwards, a sports psychiatrist. We discuss challenges or events in my life and strategies to help me cope. “
Describe your In-season off-ice routine:
“Sprints, weights and core. These include short sprints to target my anaerobic training and my weight program is conditioning in the off-season, strength in the pre-season and power in the competitive season.”
What type of off-ice training did you do to achieve on-ice height?
“Over the years I have done a lot of weight training to strengthen my legs and core to preform jumps. I have also incorporated plyometrics into my training program. My father is a track coach specializing in jumps, so he basically trained me like track athlete.”
What is your pre-practice, off-ice warm-up?
“I start my warm-up with a slow jog for up to 10 minutes. Then I do dynamic moves to get my range of movement in my limbs. This can be up to 20 minutes, starting with my upper body and then moving down to my legs. I then do off-ice jumps and go through various parts of my program’s foot work. My warm-up is probably about 45 minutes.”
How long is your off-ice cool down?
“My cool down starts off with a slow cool down jog for about 10 minutes. Then, here I do static stretches for about 20 minutes to try and release the lactic acid that has built up in my muscles.
How has goal setting supported you?
“Goal setting is very important, because it gives you things to strive for and try to succeed. You need short, medium and long-range goals in order to be successful. The short-term goals are things that can be attained in weeks or months and the medium ones are in a few months or a year.
I always dreamed that I would one day be a World and Olympic medalist. When I was 10, I wanted to go to the Sochi Olympics. So, at the beginning of each season, my coach and I would create a set of goals and identify the steps to take to challenge me. Like, when I was 11, I competed and won the Juvenile Title in Ontario, so I skipped Pre-Novice and jumped straight into the Novice division. It shocked a lot of people, but it was one of the steps we had identified to challenge me as a skater. That year, I came in sixth at Nationals and lot of people thought I was going to stay in that division. At the end of the season however, my coach and I decided to move up to the Junior division. I worked so hard and trained a lot that summer and into the fall. It paid off, because in January I won Junior Nationals just after my 13th birthday.”
What are your current goals?
“I would like to go to the next Olympics and aspire to be on the podium there for the Team and the individual events. I know I have more in me and I want to show the world that Canadian Ladies skating is still very strong.”
How do you keep yourself accountable to your goals?
“I write my goals in a notebook and stick them on a wall in my bedroom. Every morning I wake up and I see the short-term goals that I am working on so it is in my mind. I also have my medium and long-range goals written there, as well. I know that in order to achieve my medium and long-range goals that I first have to achieve my short-range goals.”
I know that in order to achieve my medium and long-range goals that I first have to achieve my short-range goals.