Still Hoping to Reach His Skating Dream

By Daniel Vaillancourt

Originally published on Advocate.com May 16 2005 11:00 PM ET

Visions of ribbons and gold have danced in the head of French-Canadian figure skater Stéphane Vachon since he was a kid growing up in a small town outside Quebec City. Winning his first competition at age 9, Vachon seemed to be off to a great start. But off the ice, glory gave way to merciless schoolyard mockery. At 17, his self-esteem in shreds, Vachon abandoned his world-champion aspirations. “I’d lost all confidence in myself and become really ashamed and guilty about who I was,” says the skater today, speaking from his home in Canada. Taking his talents to the relative safety of skating shows, Vachon toured with the Ice Capades in North America and Holiday on Ice in Europe, logging more than 1,000 performances. And although he did enter the 1994 Gay Games in New York City -- winning two gold medals -- he remained wary of mainstream contests. Until now.Throwing himself back onto competitive ice less than five months ago, Vachon, now 36, is bound and determined to “take that little boy by the hand and give him the chance to fulfill his dream.” After grabbing the gold at the 2005 Adult Canadian Championships in Charlottetown last March, he had set his sights on the upcoming Adult World Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany, and the Mountain Cup International in Villard-de-Lans, France. But the unexpected, last-minute pullout of corporate sponsors -- whom Vachon refuses to name -- has shattered his hope of participating. “I want to show everybody that you can believe in your dreams and live them no matter how old you are,” says the skater. “And knowing I have a good chance to win a medal, I just need to be there.”It's not a stretch to say that competing in Europe this summer would hone Vachon’s blades for next year’s first World OutGames in Montreal and Gay Games VII in Chicago, both of which he’s desperate to attend. “I am finally very proud of being a figure skater,” he concludes. “It’s important for me to show that I have finally learned to embrace who I really am without any shame. It’s never too late for happiness.”In an attempt to raise the few thousand dollars he needs, Vachon has set up a plea for donations on his Web site, www.svonice.com.“As an openly gay athlete, it’s already so hard to get sponsors,” he says. “I'm hoping the gay community is willing to help me reach my goals.”