Player's Own Voice

Player's Own Voice podcast: Elladj Baldé sees the future of skating

CBC Sports' Player's Own Voice podcast connects with one of Canada's most persuasive forces for inclusion in winter sport

Figure skater champions artistic diversity in every sense

Recently retired skater Elladj Balde makes a guest appearance at the exhibition gala event at the 2019 National Skating Championships at Harbour Station in Saint John, N.B. on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

When figure skater Elladj Baldé started sharing videos of himself having a ball, skating on frozen lakes, the response almost overwhelmed him. Tens of millions of views piled in … making Baldé quickly realize that he had a responsibility to put this unnervingly powerful new tool to good use. 

Retired from competition, but more engaged than ever in the wide world of skating, Baldé has become an icon of inclusion.  His video music choices are a revelation. Once he started questioning the received wisdom that light classical music was the only possible soundtrack for skating, other structures and strictures came into question too.

Clothing, culture, new ideas about who gets to participate in figure skating, Baldé's experience has helped young BIPOC athletes see themselves in winter sport like never before.

Baldé comes to the Player's Own Voice podcast to talk Olympic figure skating. He is CBC Sports' mix zone reporter for Beijing.  But it's helpful to know that along with being a scholar of the sport, he also brings perspective as co-founder of the Figure Skating Diversity and Inclusion Alliance. Baldé is happy to report that at these Games he can see figure skating moving far beyond its overwhelmingly European early days.

So- Baldé has props for Donovan Carrillo, the Mexican skater who won viewers' hearts at these games.  Not just for how the man performed, but also because now  " A young Latin kid can watch a Latin man skate to Latin music  and say, ' I can do that too.'"

As Baldé sees it, just because figure skating represents some of the oldest traditions in winter sport, doesn't mean it can't also be home to some new traditions.

Like the CBC Sports' Player's Own Voice essay series, POV podcast lets athletes speak to Canadians about issues from a personal perspective. 

transcript is here for our hard of hearing audience. To listen to Elladj Baldé or any of the guests from earlier episodes, and more Canadian athletes throughout the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, head to CBC Listen — or wherever else you get your podcasts.

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