Deanna Stellato-Dudek Becomes Oldest Female World Figure Skating Champion at Age 40

When Deanna Stellato-Dudek reflects on what her teenaged self would think about winning a first world title at age 40, the Canadian pair skater can’t help but be honest.

“She would say, ‘Why did we stop?’” laughs Stellato-Dudek, who on March 21st became the oldest woman to win a figure skating world title in the sport’s history alongside partner Maxime Deschamps.

“I’m still skating 25 years later?!” Deanna says her 15-year-old self would exclaim.

But for 16 of those years Deanna stepped away from the sport. After a silver medal in singles at the World Junior Championships, she was forced out due to a lingering hip injury and didn’t pull her dusty skates out of her family’s basement until 2016, when she mulled a comeback – at 32.

“I think my younger self would think I’m crazy,” she continued after she and Deschamps claimed their title in front of a raucous Canadian crowd in Montreal, where they both grew up and train.

“I think my younger self wouldn’t think much of [me now] at all,” she said, before adding: “She wanted to win the 2006 Olympics, so she would be wondering why I’m going to 2026.”

Stellato-Dudek does, indeed, appear headed for the coming Olympic Winter Games Milano Cortina 2026. When she made the move to Canada (from her home in the U.S.) in 2019, she and Deschamps discussed the 2026 Games.

“We both said the 2026 Olympics,” was the goal earlier this season. “And not one day has [that] wavered.”

“[Next week] we get back to work immediately on next season,” she explained. “I think if you fail to prepare, you’re preparing to fail. So the preparation starts now, and that’s a big part of the work to then be ready by the beginning of the season. And that’s really where I shine.”

Stellato-Dudek was shining at the end of the 1990s in singles, competing alongside the likes of future Olympic medallists Michelle KwanIrina Slutskaya and Sasha Cohen – among others.

It’s an era of figure skating that seems far removed from present day. And, plainly, it is. Thursday night Stellato-Dudek shared the podium with Miura Riku of Japan and Minerva Fabienne Hase from Germany.

Miura was not born yet – and Hase was only months old – when Stellato-Dudek won her previous world medal, that aforementioned silver in singles at juniors in 2000.

Deanna’s story is not lost on Hase, who captured bronze alongside Nikita Volodin in their first full season together.

“It’s really inspiring,” the 24-year-old says of Stellato-Dudek’s story. “We should all be bowing in front of you… you have my highest respect. They give us a lot of motivation for the next season [because] Deanna and Max, they’ve grown so much as a team over the past seasons.”

Deschamps, who is 32 and has been competing internationally for over a decade, puts it more simply when it comes to his partner.

“She comes every day [to practice] and for her, it’s the Olympics,” he explained. “It’s just like all that dedication. That’s what makes it special.”

As Stellato-Dudek and Deschamps hit their final pose during their competition, Deanna yelled out “Oh my God!” at him, seemingly shocked at their accomplishment. Minutes later, their win would be confirmed, and they’d return to the ice to receive their world gold medals before grabbing a Canadian flag for a lap of honour.

Stellato-Dudek didn’t believe reporters when they confirmed that she – indeed – had become the oldest woman to win a world title.

“Can I get a quote beside the record book and say, like, ’40 is the new 20?’” Stellato-Dudek joked. “That’s what I’d like to say.”

Jokes aside, though, she’s aware of the impact she’s having – in figure skating and beyond.

“It’s not something that I ever set out to do when I came back to skating,” she continued. “But I knew that if I were to accomplish my dreams, it would inevitably occur because I’m the oldest everywhere [I compete]. But, I mean, it’s something I carry with pride. I’m very proud of it.

“I hope a lot of athletes stay around a lot longer. I hope it encourages people to not stop before they’ve reached their potential. And I hope it transcends into other areas, not just in sports, but also in other areas of life, like work and professional careers.”