Deanna Stellato-Dudek becomes oldest Grand Prix figure skating champion

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canadian Deanna Stellato – Dudekthe 2000 world junior silver medalist who retired from figure skating in 2001 due to injuries and then returned in 2016, became the oldest skater to win a Grand Prix at 39.

Stellato-Dudek and Pairs Partner Maxime Deschamps won the French Grand Prix and qualified for the December Grand Prix Final, the sport’s most exclusive event by taking the top six per discipline.

They totaled 185.84 points between two programs in France, beating the French national champions Camille Kovalev and Pavel Kovalev by 5.99 despite falling on a thrown triple loop in both the short program and freestyle.

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Stellato-Dudek and Deschamps prevailed two weeks after taking second place at Skate America, where she became the oldest skater to step onto a Grand Prix podium.

Their rise coincided with the absence of the world’s best pairs this fall. All Russians are banned due to Ukraine invasion. No Chinese pair are entered in the Grand Prix series. The Russian and Chinese pairs took the top five places at the Olympics.

Stellato-Dudek, who is older than the 2002 Olympic champion Sarah Hughesretired from skating after several hip injuries, a year after winning silver at the world junior championships (four places ahead of Sasha Cohenwho is also younger than Stellato-Dudek).

More than a decade later, Stellato-Dudek was the aesthetics director at a plastic surgery practice in her native Chicagoland. While on a work retreat, she was asked to write what she would do if she knew she couldn’t fail.

Back to figure skating, she wrote. This led to a return as a couple with the 2014 Olympian nathan bartholomay. They finished third at the US Championships in 2018 and 2019, after which she began the process of changing nationality to Canada and partnered with Deschamps, who previously had eight different partners, according to Olympics.com.

At the next Winter Games, Stellato-Dudek will be 42 and older than any Olympic figure skater since World War II, according to olympedia.org.

Earlier Saturday, Loena Hendrickx became the first Belgian skater to win a Grand Prix and the oldest female Grand Prix champion in a decade.

Hendrickx, a world silver medalist and the only skater across all disciplines in France to have made an Olympic or world senior podium, totaled 216.34 points, outdistancing the South Korean Kim Ye Lim of 21.58 points. Hendrickx, 23, ranks third in the world this season with the highest score behind the Japanese mao shimada (a junior) and Kaori Sakamoto.

Adam Siao Lui Fa became the first Frenchman to win a Grand Prix since Brian Joubert in 2009, rallying the Japanese Sota Yamamoto and Kazuki Tomono with three quadruple jumps in free skating.

Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri won the ice dance, as expected. The Italians totaled 207.95 for their first Grand Prix title after finishing second or third in their last seven Grand Prix starts, including the 2018 Grand Prix Final. They rank second in the world for the highest score this season behind the Canadiens Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier.

The Grand Prix moves next weekend to Sheffield, England, headlined by the Americans: World Pairs Champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Fraziertwo-time United States champion Bradie Tennell and junior world champion Isabelle Levito.

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