ERIN – “It felt like I was in another world,” Ella Stamenkovic said of her championship skate.
“It was indescribable. I love the feeling of the ice under my feet – I have an emotional connection to the ice,” and it feels like a safe space for her.
Stamenkovic is a Grade 8 student at Erin Public School, a figure skater with the Dufferin Peel Skating Club, and a competitive dancer at ADA Dance Co.
She has been a figure skater since she was five years old, and worked hard to qualify for the provincial championships, training four days a week.
That adds up to a minimum of seven to 10 hours weekly, her mom Heather Van Slyke said, and “she always tries to get me to find extra ice time at other places to add to it,” like Brampton, Orangeville and Georgetown.
That means waking up at 5am to “skate on the same ice as her competitors in the championship,” and downloading a sports podcast to get in the zone, her mom said.
Stamenkovic said she started dancing to support her figure skating – “ballet to improve technique, contemporary to improve performance.”
But before long, she “fell in love with dance too.”
Van Slyke said her daughter “did everything she needed to do to be her very best” in preparation for the championships in Stratford on March 24.
When it came to the big day, her mom said she had “never seen her so focused and ready to accomplish something.”
Stamenkovic was determined to do her best, and succeeded, scoring 21.02, a personal best, good enough for fifth place and just 1.28 points away from first place.
“I was going out there to show everyone what I had been working on all year,” she said in a phone call with the Advertiser.
And once she was out on the ice she said she “really just got in this zone and was so focused.”
Stamenkovic said she was “so happy” when she finished and knew right away it was her “best skate of the season.
“My coaches were crying,” she added, and they told her she skated amazingly and looked like she was really enjoying herself, with a smile on her face the whole time.
Getting that feedback was “amazing,” Stamenkovic said. “It felt so good.”
Her mom called the performance “mesmerizing,” and Stamenkovic added “to land those jumps and do those spins to the best of my ability was like a dream come true, almost.”
It was “honestly just an amazing experience to go and skate with the girls who made it – the best 36 of all of Ontario,” Stamenkovic added. “I’m really glad I got to be a part of it.”
She said she’s also feeling “really excited for what comes next.” Stamenkovic was invited to attend a provincial development camp at Skate Ontario and is moving up a level to STAR 6.
Stamenkovic said she loves expressing herself through figure skating and loves how challenging the sport is. “Nothing is really easy and you have to work hard at it,” she added.
Van Slyke said she is “so proud” of her daughter.
“She worked hard – she put in the work and it was just beautiful, it really truly was. It was an incredible moment for both of us.”
Stamenkovic said she is “super grateful” for her coaches, Patty Lambertus, Daphne Whitelaw-Howe and Amy Broom, as well as her mom and dad, “for always supporting me, helping me through, and being there for me.”
Van Slyke said Stamenkovic has been surrounded by support – from her coaches, her school teachers, and her dance studio.
“They all supported her throughout her journey,” she said, and it was “really important for Ella to know they were behind her.”