How one figure skater is fighting for inclusion in the sport, one video at a time
TORONTO -- Growing up, Elladj Baldé didn’t see a lot of people who looked like him on the ice. But the professional figure skater is determined to bring more diversity to the sport through the power of social media.
Millions have watched clips of Baldé gliding over frozen lakes in the Rockies and doing backflips. Fans can’t get enough of his non-traditional style and hip-hop inspired moves.
"It really warms my heart when I see how many people watch my videos,” said Baldé.
Baldé started posting videos to TikTok and Instagram in December with the help of his fiancée, who is a dancer and a choreographer, using a style he feels is more authentic to who he is.
“I'm putting skating in the mainstream culture and pop culture and people are excited about skating again,” he said.
Baldé has been skating since age seven and was part of Canada’s national team before he retired from competitive skating three years ago. He was born in Moscow to a Guinean father and a Russian figure skating mother before moving to Canada at the age of two.
He says it was hard to fit into a skating mold that was traditionally white and European.
"I struggled with finding myself. I struggled with my sense of identity," Baldé said.
Last year, Baldé also co-founded the Figure Skating Diversity and Inclusion Alliance, which is made up of skaters from different backgrounds who hope to help skaters of colour feel supported.
"I'm changing figure skating culture because skating is stuck in their old ways," said Baldé.