Deanna Stellato-Dudek, retired for 15 years, is oldest Grand Prix figure skating champ

Deanna Stellato-Dudek, Maxime Deschamps
Deanna Stellato-Dudek, Maxime Deschamps

Canadian Deanna Stellato-Dudek, the 2000 World junior silver medalist who retired from figure skating in 2001 due to injuries, then came back in 2016, became the oldest skater to win a Grand Prix event at age 39.

Stellato-Dudek and pairs’ partner Maxime Deschamps won Grand Prix France and qualified for December’s Grand Prix Final, the most exclusive event in the sport taking the top six per discipline.

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

GRAND PRIX FRANCE: Broadcast Schedule | Results

Stellato-Dudek and Deschamps prevailed two weeks after taking runner-up at Skate America, where she became the oldest skater to make a Grand Prix podium.

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

Stellato-Dudek, who is older than 2002 Olympic champion Sarah Hughes, retired from skating after several hip injuries, a year after taking silver at junior worlds (four spots ahead of Sasha Cohen, who is also younger than Stellato-Dudek).

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

Return to figure skating, she wrote. That led to a comeback in pairs with 2014 Olympian Nathan Bartholomay. They finished third at the U.S. Championships in 2018 and 2019, after which she began the process of switching nationality to Canada and partnered with Deschamps, who previously had eight different partners, according to Olympics.com.

Come 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 Grand Prix women’s champion in a decade.

Hendrickx, the world silver medalist and the lone skater across all disciplines in France to have made an Olympic or senior world podium, totaled 216.34 points, distancing South Korean Kim Ye-Lim by 21.58 points. Hendrickx, 23, ranks third in the world this season by best score behind Japanese Mao Shimada (a junior) and Kaori Sakamoto.

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

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

The Grand Prix moves next weekend to Sheffield, England, headlined by Americans: world pairs’ champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell and world junior champion Isabeau Levito.

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Deanna Stellato-Dudek, retired for 15 years, is oldest Grand Prix figure skating champ originally appeared on NBCSports.com