With final preparations underway for the Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Games, CSIO presents a new article series highlighting how we deliver best-in-class sport science, sport medicine, and pathway support for Olympic and Paralympic partners. The focus of the series is on how #WECAN - CSIO and its sport partners - work together to help Olympic and Paralympic athletes, coaches, and support staff overcome adversity, adapt, and achieve their podium potential. Over the past couple of years, CSIO staff have been resilient and found innovative ways to provide best-in-class programs and services safely - Elevating People and Performance in Pursuit of #BuildingChampions. Because #WECAN.
By David Grossman
There just might be nothing more soothing or relaxing for Maddie Schizas, than sitting down at her home piano to indulge in some classical music.
She’s good at that. Make that, very good.
Blessed with extreme talent identified in those early years, it was her parents who introduced their daughter to a musical instrument that plays loud and soft when those wire strings are struck by felt-covered hammers.
Schizas, who also gives piano lessons, is one of those bright youngsters who is quick when it comes to the attainments of knowledge. Her ear and eye coordination bodes well – and not just in music.
Prosperity begins with a state of mind. There’s a saying that positive thinking and a sound attitude leads to happiness and prosperity.
For Schizas, that growth of success and riches in knowledge, also occurred at River Oaks Arena in Oakville. It was at the age of three, that she took to the ice surface for the first time. Her parents presented her with a pair of white skates, in what turned out to be a profitable investment. Her father was the first coach, teaching those early steps of gliding on a frozen surface.
Something she also vividly remembered, was watching skating on television.
Inquisitive and yet enthused, the winter activity would become a reality in more ways than one. For Schizas, it would also lead to performing on the world stage and a passion to always aim for the top. Most kids dream of reaching the Olympics.
That’s no longer a fantasy for Schizas. She has reached another stage of stardom - and it came sooner than later.
For Schizas, that imagination became a reality at the 2022 Skate Canada Championships in Ottawa after some superb performances that confirmed her ticket to the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Schizas dominated the field of 18 in the Women’s Senior category with remarkable performances in both the short and free programs. Her combined score in both programs totalled 198.24 points, almost 28 more than runner-up Véronik Mallet from Sept-Iles, Quebec.
In one of the more brilliant performances by a female skater in National competitions, an ecstatic Schizas had compiled a score of 126.19 in the free program and 72.05 in the short. Both were the highest scores in the competition.
“I first saw skating as a fun winter activity,” said Schizas. “It was never a huge plan for the future. I think I was 12 years old, when I really got serious about the competitive level and realized that education and sport can go together and be rewarding.”
There was a time when Schizas was not one on the pathway to a major world competition. But things do change with hard work. For her, that trajectory turned quite rapidly. The results on ice confirmed it. Seizing on opportunities, Schizas has always looked for positives and has made them work for her.
“Skate Canada Challenge 2015 in Edmonton was big for me,” she said. “I placed 16th and was happy – but that’s when I also got hooked on skating. It was all about getting better, making sure everything worked well and in a short period of time.”
Nancy Lemaire is a professional figure skating coach, nationally recognized and is Technical Director of the Milton Skating Club. She’s also the one who caught a glimpse of Schizas, for the first time, as a near seven-year-old skating at an event just outside Barrie, while guest coaching for a friend.
“I remember her as being very personable, fast and charismatic on ice,” recalled Lemaire. “She was feisty, not super athletic, but I could see she loved to perform. I could see the raw talent and enthusiasm and she wanted to have fun on skates.”
A month later, Schizas joined Lemaire at the Milton Skating Club and has been associated with her for the past 12 years.
“Those early teenage years were rough for (Schizas), but now, we have a phenomenal professional relationship,” added Lemaire. “She is a very smart young woman, politically savvy and just has this huge thirst to learn, excel and reach for the top.”
It was Schizas who earned a female spot for Canada at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing – and little did she know at the time, that more good news would come almost a year later just before the world showcase.
While skating at the Avicil Arena in Stockholm, Schizas entered the World Figure Skating championships in March of 2021 hoping for the chance to show Skate Canada what she was capable of on ice. She finished 13th.
“It was like winning a gold medal in that her performance qualified Canada for the Winter Olympics in China,” said Lemaire. “Since then, (Schizas) has done everything she can this season to validate that spot in Beijing as hers.”
2020 may very well have been the game changer with her third-place finish at the Canadian finals in Mississauga. Later that year, a milestone of sorts with a sound showing in Latvia at the Volvo Open Cup. Then, in Germany, Schizas won the Bavarian Open. She then went on to the Netherlands to finish third in the Challenge Cup – an event that focussed on senior skaters.
Relentless, energetic, and confident, Schizas is always asking smart questions, listening to advice, and then making astute decisions and adjustments.
She has huge accolades for strength and conditioning coach Greg Lewandowski and therapist Meghan Buttle, who have been monumental in he off-ice training held in the Canadian Sport Institute Ontario (CSIO) satellite facility at the Milton Velodrome.
A strong working relationship between Skate Ontario and CSIO has been nothing short of immense help for skaters. Skate Ontario is part of CSIO’s Ontario High Performance Sport Initiative (OHPSI) program and recently shifted its funding focus to prioritize the sport science and sport medicine knowledge offered by CSIO.
The goal has been to provide off-ice programs, combined with an individualized one, that is targeted at improving the performance of athletes.
Laurene Collin-Knoblauch, Skate Ontario’s Manager of High Performance Development, knows all about what the CSIO program has meant for Schizas.
“She’s smart, always looking at the big picture and is well motivated to make it to the big stage,” said Collin-Knoblauch, a former figure skater and one with a wealth of experience in high performance skating. “She’s one of the hardest workers I have ever seen and is focussed on a pathway that leads to huge success.”
Skating in general is getting harder, and both Skate Ontario and the CSIO want to build stronger bodies and decrease potential for injury.
“Our CSIO partnership has made a huge positive difference for (Schizas) and we can see it’s providing knowledge and a special service that is a bonus for our athletes,” added Collin-Knoblauch.
Often, dreams don’t fit anymore. They can change.
For Schizas, they did just that. Now, she’s number one in Canada leaving the doors of life wide open, along with an ongoing thirst for success.
David Grossman is a veteran multi award-winning Journalist and Broadcaster with some of Canada’s major media, including the Toronto Star and SPORTSNET 590 THE FAN, and a Public Relations professional for 45+ years in Canadian sports and Government relations.
Cover photo courtesy of Maddie Schizas.
Elevating People and Performances for Beijing 2022: The Series
Laura Albright, Senior Advisor, Communications & Marketing
Canadian Sport Institute Ontario
About Canadian Sport Institute Ontario
Canadian Sport Institute Ontario (CSIO) is a non-profit organization committed to the pursuit of excellence by providing best-in-class programs, services, and leadership to high performance athletes, coaches, and National and Provincial Sport Organizations to enhance their ability to achieve international podium performances. Our team of expert staff deliver sport science, sport medicine, life services, and coaching and technical leadership support to help Canada win medals and strengthen the sport system in Ontario and Canada. CSIO is part of the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Sport Institute Network, working in partnership with the Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Own the Podium, and the Coaching Association of Canada. CSIO is further supported by funding partners such as the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries and Sport Canada.