Pj has interviewed Elladj Balde many times over the course of her work at figure skating events. She thought she knew a lot about this young man’s life, so it was a bit of a surprise when their annual pre-season conversation took a turn into the uncharted territory of Elladj’s off-ice life. Elladj started to share a story about his journey back to the ice after a three-month hiatus and a disastrous (his word not hers) sixth place finish at the Canadian National championships. He was no longer sure why he was skating and had to figure out what he was going to do next. As Pj was writing furiously, it struck her that this story could be best told in Elladj’s own voice and they tried to find a quieter spot in the packed arena.
A little over a month before that – Elladj’s 99 year old grandfather had taken ill in Guinea, West Africa. Elladj’s father wondered about the chances of Elladj accompanying him to Africa to meet his namesake. It was to have been Elladj’s ‘year’ and he thought with the number of skating assignments that would be coming to him, it would have been impossible to be free to travel until May. Fate intervened, he met his grandfather and along the way, found himself. This podcast is about that very personal journey.
The following is from Elladj’s Instagram account in early 2015, as is the picture with his grandfather.
“About a month ago this man collapsed. His heart was tired. After beating for 99 years, his heart decided that it had enough. His dying wish was to see his son for one last time and to meet his grandson at least once in his life. When he collapsed he thought that dream wasn’t going to come true. Two weeks later, he woke up from a seemingly never ending coma. He had another chance to have his dream become a reality. A couple of days ago, my father and I, after a very long and exhausting trip, finally arrived in Tombon – the village where my dad grew up – so that my father could see his father again and I could finally meet the man that I was named after, my grand-father, ElHadj Mamadou Oury Baldé. Writing a page in History “